The New SAT Essay

stressed-studentStarting in March of 2016, high school students across the country will be introduced to the new SAT. Like the current test, the new SAT has sections that challenge a student’s reading and math skills, as well as an essay, which is now optional. Students who choose to write the essay now have 50 minutes instead of just 25.

Let’s learn more about the new SAT essay, discover some helpful tips students can use when tackling this portion of the exam, and determine whether it’s necessary for every high school student to write an SAT essay.

Writing the Essay on the New SAT

Students who decide to write the SAT essay begin the process by reading a passage. Next, they must follow the essay prompt and craft an essay that analyzes the passage. A student’s essay must clearly explain how the author of the passage made their argument, and should include examples and evidence from the passage to support their analysis. In addition, they should point out persuasive elements used by the author and highlight words that add to the writer’s argument. A student writing an essay for the new version of the SAT does not take a stand on the argument put forth by the author of the passage – this is one of the main differences between the current SAT essay and the new SAT essay.

Skills Tested in the Essay Section

The essay on the new SAT tests a student’s reading comprehension skills, as a student must be able to both read and understand the passage in order to write an analysis. The essay also tests a student’s ability to recognize evidence used by the author to persuade readers toward a certain point of view.

Most importantly, a student’s ability to take this information and create a clear, organized essay is put to the test. The essay section on the new SAT gives students the opportunity to sample the type of writing they will be doing in their college courses – the ability to analyze an argument is a valuable skill that college students can use in practically any course.

Tips for Writing an Impressive Essay

Writing practice essays is the best way for students to prep for this portion of the test. After reading a practice prompt, it’s a good idea for students to make an outline for the essay and jot down critical pieces of evidence and pertinent details. An outline will also help a student organize all of the parts of an essay and make note of important points to include in their piece. In some cases, an outline can help a student to refocus if they lose their train of thought during the test.

At Veritas Prep, we assist students in learning how to write a compelling essay for the SAT. Our talented instructors have practical experience with the SAT and know what it takes to craft a stellar essay, so students who work with our professional tutors are receiving instruction from the experts!

Should Every Student Write the Optional Essay?

Most students want to know if they should write the optional essay. The answer depends on where a student wants to go to college. There are some colleges that require an applicant’s SAT essay score and some that don’t – it’s a smart idea for students to check with the schools they plan to apply to. Some students make the decision to take the essay portion of the SAT so they can offer a college solid proof of their excellent writing skills.

In addition to offering guidance on writing an essay for the SAT, our online tutors at Veritas Prep help students study for all of the other sections on the exam. Students learn valuable test strategies that they can use on test day to boost their performance from tutors offer who encouragement every step of the way. We know that preparing for the SAT can be stressful, and we are here to help!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Should You Retake the GMAT or Focus on Your MBA Application?

scottbloomdecisionsEvery application season, there is a point at which many applicants reach a very anxiety-driven and critical dilemma: whether it is worth re-taking the GMAT or not. Now this question is not the same as the also very common, “Is my GMAT score high enough?” question. The former question, unlike the latter, truly exists in a vacuum due to outside constraints primarily based on the time constraints and confidence of the applicant.

What makes this question even more challenging is that the answer is truly specific to the individual, which can require a bit more nuanced thought process to eventually make the “right” decision. Keep in mind, there really is no obvious right decision in most of these scenarios – the goal here should be to optimize your chances at gaining admission to your target programs given some of the following factors:

Time

How much time do you have before your application is due? An extended timeline before submission can make re-taking the GMAT a more obvious option. The decision to retake the GMAT or focus on your application is very much intertwined. Committing to re-taking the GMAT generally comes at the expense of time that could be dedicated towards focusing on the various other application components.

Effort

How much effort would be required for additional prep to reach your target GMAT score? Even if time is not a major issue, the effort necessary may still not be worth it in the grand scheme for many applicants. Given the wide differences in how test takers may embrace the GMAT prep process, a candidate’s appetite for taking on additional prep is a major factor.

Confidence

How confident are you that you can materially improve your score? It should not just be about getting incremental points on the GMAT. When most re-take the GMAT, the expectation is a major jump from the previous score. Re-taking the GMAT with limited time available, an expected heavy amount of effort required, and a lack of confidence in securing substantial gains can make this decision a very difficult one for many candidates. Confidence here can be gleaned through performance on practice tests, and how closely one’s scores align with the score received during the initial prep process.

Overall Value

The final decision here really should focus on deciding whether the expected upside of the subsequent GMAT retake is more valuable to your candidacy than additional hours of focus and attention to the other MBA application components, and is something that applicants must decide on their own.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Listen to Yoda on Sentence Correction You Must

GMAT Tip of the WeekSpeak like Yoda this weekend, your friends will. As today marks the release of the newest Star Wars movie, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, young professionals around the world are lining up dressed as their favorite robot, wookie, or Jedi knight, and greeting each other in Yoda’s famous inverted sentence structure. And for those who hope to awaken the force within themselves to conquer the evil empire that is the GMAT, Yoda can be your GMAT Jedi Master, too.

Learn from Yoda’s speech pattern, you must.

What can Yoda teach you about mastering GMAT Sentence Correction? Beware of inverted sentences, you should. Consider this example, which appeared on the official GMAT:

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the claw-footed bathtub.

(A) things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing
(B) things antique has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that is bringing
(C) things that are antiques has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring
(D) antique things have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing
(E) antique things has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring

What makes this problem difficult is the inversion of the subject and verb. Much like Yoda’s habit of putting the subject after the predicate, this sentence flips the subject (“a market”) and the verb (“has grown”). And in doing so, the sentence gets people off track – many will see “America’s fascination” as the subject (and luckily so, since it’s still singular) or “all things antique” as the subject. But consider:

  • Antique things can’t grow. They’re old, inanimate objects (like those Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader action figures that your mom threw away that would now be worth a lot of money).
  • America’s fascination is the reason for whatever is growing. “Out of America’s fascination, America’s fascination is growing” doesn’t make any sense – the cause can’t be its own effect.

So, logically, “a market” has to be the subject. But in classic GMAT style, the testmakers hide the correct answer (B) behind a strange sentence structure. Two, really – people also tend to dislike “all things antique” (preferring “all antique things” instead), but again, that’s an allowable inversion in which the adjective goes after the noun.

Here is the takeaway: the GMAT will employ lots of strange sentence structures, including subject-verb inversion, a la Yoda (but only when it’s grammatically warranted), so you will often need to rely on “The Force” of logic to sift through complicated sentences. Here, that means thinking through logically what the subject of the sentence should be, and also removing modifiers like “out of America’s fascination…” to give yourself a more concise sentence on which to employ that logical thinking (the fascination is causing a market to develop, and that market is bringing back these old types of furniture).

Don’t let the GMAT Jedi mind-trick you out of the score you deserve. See complicated sentence structures, you will, so employ the force of logic, you must.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

The Importance of Tutoring for the Ivy League

tutoringHigh school students who aspire to attend an Ivy League school must work hard to achieve their goal. For example, they need to earn excellent scores on either the ACT or SAT, in addition to garner glowing letters of recommendation, write a compelling admissions essay, and maintain a sterling academic record throughout high school. Let’s take a closer look at what a student needs to do to get into an Ivy League school, and learn how Veritas Prep can help:

Preparing for the SAT

It stands to reason that a student who prepares for the SAT with a qualified tutor is likely to have great success on the test. At Veritas Prep, our professional instructors know how to thoroughly prep students to tackle the new SAT. Getting an excellent SAT score can be a student’s first step toward getting into the Ivy League.

Tutors at Veritas Prep understand that students need to achieve extremely high test scores to be considered by these exclusive schools. Interestingly, many of our tutors are actually graduates of Ivy League schools themselves, so students who dream of earning a degree from an Ivy League school can study for the SAT with a tutor who knows what it takes to be accepted! In addition to giving students tips regarding the SAT, our tutors are also experts at offering much-needed support and encouragement – we give our students the tools they need to showcase their skills and abilities on test day.

Preparing for the ACT

For students choosing to take the ACT rather than the SAT, an impressive ACT score is another requirement for students applying to schools belonging to the Ivy League. The ACT has several sections, including English, Math, Reading, and Science, in addition to an optional Writing section. Students who take our online or in-person courses learn strategies that can simplify questions on the ACT. Each of our ACT tutors achieved a 99th percentile score on the official ACT test, so students who study with Veritas Prep are learning from individuals who aced the ACT!

AP Tutoring

Many students sign up for AP courses to help them toward acceptance into the Ivy League. Veritas Prep AP tutors have mastered the subject they are teaching, which is especially important for students who want to get into the Ivy League. Taking AP courses and properly studying for them will help students prepare for college-level work, and they are a notable addition to any high school transcript.

Admissions Consulting

What better way to learn what Ivy League schools are looking for in applicants than to speak to experts on the schools? Veritas Prep admissions consultants have experience working in the admissions offices of Ivy League schools, and thus have inside knowledge of what admissions officials are looking for. Our admissions consultants provide a wide range of services, including organizing applications, evaluating transcripts, offering guidance on admissions essays, and giving students advice regarding their extracurricular activities, helping students every step of the way as they pursue their goal of studying at an Ivy League college.

Whether students want an Ivy League tutor to help them prepare for the SAT or they need a professional to guide them through the admissions process, we can provide valuable assistance. We are proud to help ambitious students turn the dream of attending an Ivy League college into a reality. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us know how we can help.

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

For more college admissions tips, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

How I Achieved GMAT Success Through Service to School and Veritas Prep

Service to School Bryan Young served in the United States Army as an enlisted infantryman for five years, with a fifteen month tour in Iraq from 06’-07’. After leaving the military in 2008, he completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington. He started his career in the consumer packaged goods industry and is now looking to attend a top tier university to obtain an MBA. Along with help from Veritas Prep, he was able to raise his GMAT score from a 540 to a 690!

How did you hear about Veritas Prep?

I had been thinking about taking the GMAT for the last three years and knew that I would probably need the help of a prep course to be able to get a competitive score. Service to School, a non-profit that helps veterans make the transition from the military to undergraduate and graduate school, awarded me with a scholarship to Veritas Prep.

What was your initial Experience with the GMAT?

During my first diagnostic test, I was pretty overwhelmed. The questions were confusing and the length of the test was intimidating. Finishing the test with a 540 was a wakeup call for me. My goal was to score a 700 or higher and the score I achieved showed me just how much work I was going to need to put into the process.

How did the Veritas Prep Course help prepare you?

The resources that Veritas Prep provides are amazing. The books arrived within a few days and then I was ready to start taking the online classes. After a few classes I realized that I needed to brush up on some of the basics and was able to use their skill builders sections to get back on track. The online class format was great and helped me to learn the strategies and ask questions. Then the homework help line was where I was able to get answers on some of the more tricky questions I encountered.

Tell us about your test day experiences and how you felt throughout the experience?

The first two times I took the test I was still not as prepared as I need to be. The test day started well, but quickly went sour. I ran out of time on the integrated reasoning section and with my energy being low I wound up having my worst verbal performances.

One of the greatest aspects of Veritas Prep is that they allow you to retake the class if you feel like you need to take it again. The second time through the class helped me a lot more since I wasn’t struggling with not knowing some of the basics. This helped me to fully understand the strategies for the quant section and solidify my sentence corrections skills as well. One suggestion of eating a snickers bar (or some sugary snack) made a huge difference for my energy levels and concentration on test day.

After another month and a half of studying I took the GMAT again and was excited to see the 690 with an 8 on the integrated reasoning. The score was in the range I wanted and I couldn’t have been happier to be finished. Veritas Prep helped me so much throughout the year long process of beating the GMAT!

Need help preparing for the GMAT? Join us for one of our FREE online GMAT strategy sessions or sign up for one of our GMAT prep courses, which are starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

New SAT Math Section

New SATIn March of 2016, the current SAT will transform into the new SAT. At Veritas Prep, we know that high school students in the class of 2017 are curious about the changes in the new SAT math section. What types of questions will there be? Will the questions still be in multiple-choice form? Take a look at some information that can help students know what to expect when they sit down to take the math section of the new SAT:

What Areas of Math Are Covered on the New SAT?

Questions in the new SAT math section test students on the fundamentals of algebra as well as challenge their skills in problem-solving and data analysis. Students will also encounter questions that involve quadratic, higher-order, and linear equations, as well as several questions that will test their skills in geometry, complex numbers, and trigonometry. The questions on the newest version of the test use real-world scenarios and are similar to the types of questions students will encounter in future college math courses.

Multiple-Choice and Grid-In Questions

The math section on the new SAT includes 45 multiple-choice questions and 13 grid-in questions. Most students are familiar with multiple-choice questions, but they may not be familiar with grid-ins, also known as student-produced-response questions. When completing a grid-in question, a student works out the problem and writes the answer in the appropriate place on the answer sheet. Next, the student blackens the answer bubble below each written number, decimal point, or fraction line, and the answer bubbles are arranged in grids on the answer sheet. These types of questions give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to come up with answers on their own.

Are Students Still Allowed to Use Calculators on the Test?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Students are allowed to use calculators to complete 38 of the questions in the math section. The remaining 20 questions must be completed without a calculator. Of course, students can write on scratch paper or even the test booklet when solving a math problem without a calculator.

Tips to Follow When Studying for the New Math Section

One easy tip to remember when tackling multiple-choice questions in the math section is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. This will make a question look more manageable and prevent a student from wasting time with the wrong answers.

Another tip to help students on the math section is to plug each possible answer option into the equation contained in the question, and to write down and work through the equation on paper. Putting the problem down on paper is easier than trying to mentally juggle the various parts of a complicated equation, and can also help students work through each problem in a fast and efficient way.

Looking for keywords in a math question is another way to narrow down the answer options. Some examples of keywords include “quotient,” “sum,” “difference,” and “product.” When students spot these keywords along with others, they’re better able to understand what a question is asking.

Preparing for the New SAT Math Section

We offer several tutoring options both in person and online to students who want to prep for the math section of the new SAT. Our skillful tutors provide expert instruction based on practical experience. We review the results of practice tests with students to help pinpoint the areas in need of the most improvement, and once those areas are identified, we offer test-taking strategies to students that can boost their performance. In short, students who work with Veritas Prep are getting help from the experts!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

The Patterns to Solve GMAT Questions with Reversed-Digit Numbers

Essay The GMAT asks a fair number of questions about the properties of two-digit numbers whose tens and units digits have been reversed. Because these questions pop up so frequently, it’s worth spending a little time to gain a deeper understanding of the properties of such pairs of numbers. Like much of the content on the GMAT, we can gain understanding of these problems by simply selecting random examples of such numbers and analyzing and dissecting them algebraically.

Let’s do both.

First, we’ll list out some random pairs of two-digit numbers whose tens and units digits have been reversed: {34, 43}; {17, 71}; {18, 81.} Now we’ll see if we can recognize a pattern when we add or subtract these figures. First, let’s try addition: 34 + 43 = 77; 17 + 71 = 88; 18 + 81 = 99. Interesting. Each of these sums turns out to be a multiple of 11. This will be true for the sum of any two two-digit numbers whose tens and units digits are reversed. Next, we’ll try subtraction: 43 – 34 = 9; 71 – 17 = 54; 81 – 18 = 63; Again, there’s a pattern. The difference of each pair turns out to be a multiple of 9.

Algebraically, this is easy enough to demonstrate. Say we have a two-digit number with a tens digit of “a” and a units digit of “b”. The number can be depicted as 10a + b. (If that isn’t clear, use a concrete number to illustrate it to yourself. Let’s reuse “34”. In this case a = 3 and b = 4. 10a + b = 10*3 + 4 = 34. This makes sense. The number in the “tens” place should be multiplied by 10.) If the original number is 10a + b, then swapping the tens and units digits would give us 10b + a. The sum of the two terms would be (10a + b) + (10b + a) = 11a + 11b = 11(a + b.) Because “a” and “b” are integers, this sum must be a multiple of 11. The difference of the two terms would be  (10a + b) – (10b + a) = 9a – 9b = 9(a – b) and this number will be a multiple of 9.

Now watch how easy certain official GMAT questions become once we’ve internalized these properties:

The positive two-digit integers x and y have the same digits, but in reverse order. Which of the following must be a factor of x + y?

A) 6

B) 9

C) 10

D) 11

E) 14

If you followed the above discussion, you barely need to be conscious to answer this question correctly. We just proved that the sum of two-digit numbers whose units and tens digits have been reversed is 11! No need to do anything here. The answer is D. Pretty nice.

Let’s try another, slightly tougher one:

If a two-digit positive integer has its digits reversed, the resulting integer differs from the original by 27. By how much do the two digits differ?

A) 3

B) 4

C) 5

D) 6

E) 7

This one is a little more indicative of what we’re likely to encounter on the actual GMAT. It’s testing us on a concept we’re expected to know, but doing so in a way that precludes us from simply relying on rote memorization. So let’s try a couple of approaches.

First, we’ll try picking some numbers. Let’s use the answer choices to steer us. Say we try B – we’ll want two digits that differ by 4. So let’s use the numbers 84 and 48. Okay, we can see that the difference is 84 – 48 = 36. That difference is too big, it should be 27. So we know that the digits are closer together. This means that the answer must be less than 4. We’re done. The answer is A. (And if you were feeling paranoid that it couldn’t possibly be that simple, you could test two numbers whose digits were 3 apart, say, 14 and 41. 41-14 = 27. Proof!)

Alternatively, we can do this one algebraically. We know that if the original two-digit numbers were 10a +b, that the new number, whose digits are reversed, would be 10b + a. If the difference between the two numbers were 27, we’d derive the following equation: (10a + b) – (10b + a) = 27. Simplifying, we get 9a – 9b = 27. Thus, 9(a – b) = 27, and a – b = 3. Also not so bad.

Takeaway: Once you’ve completed a few hundred practice questions, you’ll begin to notice that a few GMAT strategies are applicable to a huge swath of different question types. You’re constantly picking numbers, testing answer choices, doing simple algebra, or applying a basic number property that you’ve internalized. In this case, the relevant number property to remember is that the sum of two two-digit numbers whose units and tens digits have been reversed is always a multiple of 11, and the difference of such numbers is always a multiple of 9. Generally speaking, if you encounter a particular question type more than once in the Official Guide, it’s always worth spending a little more time familiarizing yourself with it.

*Official Guide questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles by him here.

SAT Tip of the Week: 5 Steps to Increase Your Speed

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany adults still have stress dreams in which they are running out of time on a timed test (How unfortunate that so many cannot even escape this dread in their sleep!). I have personally had the unfortunate experience of waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming of a clock winding down to zero as I have pages of questions left unanswered.

The SAT is a beast of a timed test and many students have a hard time determining how to manage their time while taking this exam. Whether you are taking the old version of the exam, or the new format, there are a number of ways that you can increase the your pace on the SAT:

1) Practice in a Timed Setting

It is surprising how many students sit down for the SAT having never actually timed themselves on any full SAT sections. Doing SAT practice problems is great, I will never chastise anyone for doing these, but there is simply no substitute for replicating the actual timed conditions of the SAT. You don’t have to take a full length timed SAT every week; you don’t have to be a hero! Simply do a timed section when you feel comfortable with the format. Work until you run out of time and mark the questions attempted and skipped.

After the time is up, go back and finish up the other problems so you have a chance to attempt all the problems even if your time management is still being developed. Being prepared for the SAT is imperative to being able to use time effectively on the test day, and part of preparation is knowing what twenty five minutes feels like and what spending too much time on one question feels like. There is no substitute for practice.

2) Create a General Template for an Essay

The time spent figuring out how to structure an essay on the SAT is time wasted. This may sound counter intuitive as structure is a big part of what the SAT graders are evaluating, but it is this reason exactly that makes the structure of the essay the first thing that can be systematized and recycled. If you are taking the old format of the SAT, use a little time to brainstorm examples. Essentially all a brainstorm consists of is the position on the question and the examples that will be used in the argument.

If you are taking the new format of the SAT, use the time to identify stylistic elements, logical elements, and evidence used in the document. The new format is an analysis essay, but its set up is the as the previous test same. You simply need to set up an introduction with a clear thesis that the document is effective or ineffective because of the three elements listed above. Read the essay and mark any sections that fall into those three categories – once this work is done, the essay is practically written. All a student must do now is plug these specifics into the general essay template and the essay quickly writes itself. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the clock in this section as it is easy to get behind (you should start writing by the 15 minute mark on the new format).

3) Answer Questions From the Section of the Text Being Referenced

The answer to all reading test questions are in the passage. Anyone who has had me as a tutor is likely tire of hearing that mantra, but it is as true as the sky is blue. It is not simply that the answer is in the passage though, but it is also the case that the answer is in the part of the passage referenced by the question. If the question asks for what the author is doing in a specific few lines it is best to search for the answer in those lines (and the lines directly before and after those lines). The biggest waste of time on the reading section in either format of the test is random searching of the passages. Mark the passage so you know which sections deal with what general topic. By simply writing one word by a paragraph you can save yourself a fair bit of time searching through the passage.

4) Skip Hard Math Questions IMMEDIATELY

For most students who wish to achieve SAT success at the highest level, all questions will need to be attempted, but should a student encounter a question that is difficult for them to answer, the student should skip the question immediately and come back to it later. The SAT gives equal weight to every question, so spending six minutes on one question and coming up with no answer not only hurts a student on that question, but also on every question that follows. A student should attempt to answer every question that they can, so if the student does not even get to four questions at the end of a section , they have no way of knowing if they would have been able to more easily answer one of the final questions.

The SAT questions are presented in order of difficulty, but difficulty is relative. What’s hard for one person might be simple for another, so do not waste time being baffled by a question. Be baffled, then if you have answered all the questions that you feel you can approach easily, go back to the questions where you didn’t know how to start and do SOMETHING. Write out formulas, label givens, eliminate answer choices that don’t make sense. Sometimes, doing the first step will lead to others and an impossible question will become possible.

5) Do NOT Focus On The Time

Wait, didn’t you just say to make sure to keep an eye on the clock? A little glance at the clock is fine, but you should be so used to the timing of the test that you feel whether or not you are spending too long on a question. If you realize that you are running out of time, don’t panic! Do your best to complete the questions you can with accuracy and take a glance at the questions you have left so you can attempt those that seem possible to complete quickly. Perhaps you will get one or two more questions correct, instead of getting all the remaining questions wrong because you rushed through them.

The biggest thing a student can do on the day of the test to make sure that they are pacing themselves properly is to practice often in advance and to breathe! The stress of the day can make people jittery and poorly focused, but preparation and breathing help to eliminate these problems and prepare students to rock the SAT. So what are you waiting for? Get out that timer and start practicing!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

Applying to Ivy League Schools: What All Students Need to Know

Princeton UniversityIf you’re a high school students planning on applying to Ivy League schools, you probably have a lot of questions. For instance, you may want to know what the academic requirements are to get into an Ivy League school and how you can increase your chances of acceptance. Check out several tips that can help high school students like you on their way toward a spot in the freshman class at an Ivy League college:

Take Challenging Courses Throughout High School

Admissions officers at Ivy League schools consider all of the courses a student takes in high school. They like to see students who challenge themselves with increasingly difficult courses as they progress toward graduation, as this demonstrates a student’s dedication to thoroughly learning a subject. Admissions officers at Ivy League schools look for students who are intellectually curious and who are excited to test their skills with difficult subjects.

Pay Close Attention to the Admissions Essay

Some students try to play it safe with their essay by writing what they think the admissions officers want to hear, however, this is the wrong approach to take. Admissions officers at Ivy League schools look instead for thoughtful, well-crafted essays. College admissions officials appreciate a sincere essay that allows them a more personal look at a student and their experiences.

Dedicated Participation in a Few Extracurricular Activities

Students interested in going to an Ivy League school should also know that admissions officials pay close attention to an applicant’s extracurricular activities. They especially like it when a student makes a long-term commitment to a few activities – for example, a student may hold an office in student government as well as belong to the debate team all four years of school, and volunteer at the same senior citizen center every summer throughout high school. In short, college officials at Ivy League schools prefer to see long-term dedication to a handful of activities as opposed to short-term participation in dozens of them.

Excel on the SAT or ACT

When applying to Ivy League schools, students should know that their SAT and ACT scores carry a lot of weight with admissions officials. A high SAT or ACT score paired with excellent grades gives officials an idea of whether a student can succeed academically at an Ivy League school and handle the rigors of the school’s classwork.

Students who work with our SAT tutors at Veritas Prep are studying with individuals who excelled on the test. In fact, each of our tutors scored in the 99th percentile on the test. We go over practice test results with students to find the specific areas that need work. As a student’s practice test scores improve, they gain more confidence regarding the SAT. With our help, students are able to present their best SAT scores to the admissions officials at any Ivy League school.

Demonstrate Interest in Attending an Ivy League School

Students who want to apply to an Ivy League school must never underestimate the value of demonstrating their interest in an institution. The most effective way to show interest in a school is to apply early, especially for schools you absolutely know you want to attend.

Students should also try to visit their college of interest to tour its campus. Visiting the college allows the student to ask questions about the school that aren’t answered on the school’s website. In addition, a visit can offer the student an opportunity to discuss their visit during a future interview with admissions officials. Once a student submits an application, it’s a good idea for the person to stay in contact with school officials – this helps to emphasize their interest in attending the school. Naturally, officials at an Ivy League school want students who are passionate about learning and have specific reasons why they want to earn a degree at that school, and following these steps will help show them that you’re committed.

Our experienced instructors at Veritas Prep are proud to assist students who are applying to Ivy League schools. Whether they need SAT prep online, guidance regarding the admissions process, or a free application evaluation, we are here to help ambitious high school students achieve their goal. Contact our team at Veritas Prep today!

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

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4 Ways to Handle the Pressures of College Homework

Summer BooksWhen you first get to college, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with more homework than you’ve ever had before. The readings, papers, projects, problem sets, and exams sometimes feel like they never end.

Given this, it’s not hard to fall behind. Keeping up with all of the work, getting enough sleep, and finding time to make friends and relax is a tall task. I’ll be honest: it took me a while to figure out how to best complete all my homework. The first couple weeks of the semester I was incredibly inefficient. Finishing my assignments and readings took way longer than I wanted it to. Eventually I got fed up with all the time I was wasting and decided to do a little critical reflection on how I could change my homework habits to optimize my productivity. Here are some bits of advice I discovered that have really helped me manage my homework load better:

1. Mix up the types of assignments you do. If you take a balanced mix of classes, you’re bound to end up with different types of homework assignments. Make good use of this by varying the types of homework you do each day. It can get monotonous to try to all of your readings in one short period of time, but if you stagger, say, readings with problem sets, you’ll keep your energy up for longer.

2. Know where you work best. For me at least, different types of homework are conducive to different locations for working. Instead of wandering around and just doing homework wherever you happen to be, it’s helpful to understood which assignments correspond well with certain study spots. For me, I do textbook reading in the quiet library section, essay writing in a library cubicle, readings in bed or on the main green, and problem sets in study lounges. Know where you work best, because putting yourself in an environment that’s conducive to the task at hand is crucial in doing efficient work.

3. Give yourself breaks. What? But doesn’t college give too much homework to take breaks? My answer to that question is a resounding NO. It is super important that you don’t work so much that you burn out. Not only is overworking bad for your health, it’s also bad for your productivity. Humans can only focus on the same task for a limited amount of time. If you try to push past this limit and do homework for obscene amounts of time, you’ll end up working really slowly and retaining little of what you were trying to learn. My advice is to break up your homework into manageable chunks and give yourself breaks in between. You’ll accomplish more by working in segments of 35 minutes “on” and 10 minutes “off” than you will by trying to focus nonstop for hours at a time.

4. Take classes you enjoy. This might seem obvious, but it is still of critical importance. By taking classes you’re enthused about the large piles of homework you have won’t be so daunting. Sure, doing homework is rarely at the top of anyone’s preference list; however, if the homework you’re doing is interesting to you’re more likely to feel excited about doing it than anxious about getting it done.

It’s true that keeping up with homework well in college will be a difficult thing to accomplish. However, with the right mindset and good habits, you’ll conquer the pressure of college-level homework and discover an incredible perseverance within yourself in no time.

Planning to work on your college applications during Winter Break? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Use Difference of Squares to Beat the GMAT

GMATIn Michael Lewis’ Flashboys, a book about the hazards of high-speed trading algorithms, Lewis relates an amusing anecdote about a candidate interviewing for a position at a hedge fund. During this interview, the candidate receives the following question: Is 3599 a prime number? Hopefully, your testing Spidey Senses are tingling and telling you that the answer to the question is going to incorporate some techniques that will come in handy on the GMAT. So let’s break this question down.

First, this is an interview question in which the interviewee is put on the spot, so whatever the solution entails, it can’t involve too much hairy arithmetic. Moreover, it is far easier to prove that a large number is NOT prime than to prove that it is prime, so we should be thinking about how we can demonstrate that this number possesses factors other than 1 and itself.

Whenever we’re given unpleasant numbers on the GMAT, it’s worthwhile to think about the characteristics of round numbers in the vicinity. In this case, 3599 is the same as 3600 – 1. 3600, the beautiful round number that it is, is a perfect square: 602. And 1 is also a perfect square: 12. Therefore 3600 – 1 can be written as the following difference of squares:

3600 – 1 = 602 – 12

We know that x– y= (x + y)(x – y), so if we were to designate “x” as “60” and “y” as “1”, we’ll arrive at the following:

60– 1= (60 + 1)(60 – 1) = 61 * 59

Now we know that 61 and 59 are both factors of 3599. Because 3599 has factors other than 1 and itself, we’ve proven that it is not prime, and earned ourselves a plumb job at a hedge fund. Not a bad day’s work.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s analyze some actual GMAT questions that incorporate this concept.

First:

999,9992 – 1 = 

A) 1010 – 2

B) (106 – 2) 2   

C) 105 (106 -2)

D) 106 (105 -2)

E) 106 (106 -2)

Notice the pattern. Anytime we have something raised to a power of 2 (or an even power) and we subtract 1, we have the difference of squares, because 1 is itself a perfect square. So we can rewrite the initial expression as 999,9992 – 12.

Using our equation for difference of squares, we get:

999,9992 – 12  = (999,999 +1)(999,999 – 1)

(999,999 + 1)(999,999 – 1) = 1,000,000* 999,998.

Take a quick glance back at the answer choices: they’re all in terms of base 10, so there’s a little work left for us to do. We know that 1,000,000 = 106  (Remember that the exponent for base 10 is determined by the number of 0’s in the figure.) And we know that 999,998 = 1,000,000 – 2 = 106 – 2, so 1,000,000* 999,998 = 106 (106 -2), and our answer is E.

Let’s try one more:

Which of the following is NOT a factor of 38 – 28?

A) 97

B) 65

C) 35

D) 13

E) 5

Okay, you’ll see quickly that 38 – 28 will involve same painful arithmetic. But thankfully, we’ve got the difference of two numbers, each of which has been raised to an even exponent, meaning that we have our trusty difference of squares! So we can rewrite 38 – 28 as (34)2 – (24)2. We know that 34 = 81 and 24 = 16, so (34)2 – (24)2 = 812 – 162. Now we’re in business.

812 – 162 = (81 + 16)(81 – 16) = 97 * 65.

Right off the bat, we can see that 97 and 65 are factors of our starting numbers, and because we’re looking for what is not a factor, A and B are immediately out. Now let’s take the prime factorization of 65. 65 = 13 * 5. So our full prime factorization is 97 * 13 * 5. Now we see that 13 and 5 are factors as well, thus eliminating D and E from contention. That leaves us with our answer C. Not so bad.

Takeaways:

  • The GMAT is not interested in your ability to do tedious arithmetic, so anytime you’re asked to find the difference of two large numbers, there is a decent chance that the number can be depicted as a difference of squares.
  • If you have the setup (Huge Number)2 – 1, you’re definitely looking at a difference of squares, because 1 is a perfect square.
  • If you’re given the difference of two numbers, both of which are raised to even exponents, this can also be depicted as a difference of squares, as all integers raised to even exponents are, by definition, perfect squares.

*Official Guide question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles by him here.

4 Ways to Make the Most of Your Business School Campus Visit

YaleVisiting campus is one of the best ways you can learn about your target MBA programs and not only determine if a program is right for you, but also acquire some school-specific fodder for your applications.

This information can transform components of your application – such as the essay, interview, and short answers – into real, customized pieces of content for the admissions decision makers. Before you pack your bags to visit some of the world’s best academic communities, however, read the below tips to make sure you are making the most of your campus visit.

Let’s explore a 4 easy ways you can make the most of your business school campus visit:

1) Meet with Admissions

One of the best parts of visiting campus is the ability to connect with the MBA admissions officers who will eventually review your application. Creating a positive impression with admissions can really pay dividends. Forging a human connection is something that the majority of applicants will not do, so take advantage of the opportunity! Formal opportunities like the various information sessions hosted on campus are no-brainers during a campus visit, but make sure you don’t miss potential chances to also connect with representatives from admissions one-on-one, if possible.

2) Visit a Class

Sitting in on an MBA class really helps contextualize the entire business school experience while helping you determine if, academically, a program is right for you. Also, formal class visit programs are often tracked by admissions along with the information sessions, which can signal strong interest to the admissions office.

3) Connect with Students

Many programs will have formal programs that allow you to connect with students that share a similar profile as you, such as geographic, academic, interest or other demographic similarities. Informal chats with students can also be just as important, so spending some time on campus in public spaces can facilitate these type of interactions. Most current students will be more than happy to discuss their own personal experiences both on-campus and in the application process, so don’t be afraid to leverage these great sources of information.

4) Explore the Student Community

Classes and connections aside, choosing the right business school is an important decision. MBA students spend a lot of time both on-campus and in the immediate area around campus, so taking the time to explore the greater community is a critical aspect of any visit. Determining if big cities such as New York and Los Angeles are a fit for you, or if smaller towns like Hanover or Evanston more your style, is an integral part of the decision making process.

Utilize these four touchpoints to make the most of your business school campus visits.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

The New SAT: Scoring

SAT Scantron TestThe new SAT is due to arrive in March of 2016. Along with changes in content, there is also a new SAT scoring system. It’s important for students to understand the new SAT scores before diving into the latest version of the test. Take a look at the specifics regarding the scoring system for the new SAT and discover some tips that can help students earn a high score on the test:

A Look at the New SAT Scoring System

On the new SAT, the highest total score a student can earn is 1600. Students receive a separate score for the optional essay. The new SAT consists of two main sections: One section tests a student’s skills in reading and writing, while the other section tests a student’s math skills. Scores for each of the two sections are then added together to get the person’s total score on the test.

The New SAT Score Range for Each Section

Students can score between 200 and 800 on the reading and writing section of the SAT. The scoring range is the same for the math section. A student who scores an 800 on the reading and writing section as well as on the math portion of the test would achieve a perfect 1600 on the SAT.

Examining a Student’s Performance on the SAT

The new SAT scores allow both students and colleges to get a more in-depth look at an individual’s performance on the test. For instance, an SAT score report now features cross-test scores given to students for specific skills. including analysis in science, history, and social studies. The cross-test score scale ranges from 10 to 40.

There are also seven subscores that assess a student’s performance in specific areas. For instance, a student receives a subscore that reflects how well they recognized words in context, while another subscore reveals how well a student did with questions related to problem-solving and data analysis. These seven subscores paint a more detailed picture of a student’s abilities in several areas.

Scoring the Essay on the New SAT

The highest possible score for the SAT essay is eight points. There are two test graders who evaluate each student’s essay, and each of these graders gives an essay a score of one to four points. The essay graders are looking here at a student’s ability to comprehend the whole passage in addition to the student’s ability to analyze the evidence in the passage and write an organized, concise essay. These two scores are added together to equal the total score for the essay – if both scorers give an essay four points, then the student has earned a perfect score on the essay.

Advantages of the New SAT Scoring Scale

The system of scoring on the new SAT doesn’t penalize students for guessing, so students have the opportunity to benefit even if they aren’t certain about an answer. Another advantage of the scoring system on the new SAT is that students can now determine where they can improve their performance by looking at the details on the redesigned score report.

Converting SAT Scores

High school students who’ve taken the current version of the SAT may wonder if they now have to take the new version. The answer is no. For a few years, most colleges will accept scores from the current SAT as well as the version coming out in the spring of 2016. Students who took the current version of the SAT can also perform a new SAT score conversion with the help of a conversion chart.

Tips for Achieving an Impressive Score on the SAT

Taking practice tests is an excellent way to prep for the new SAT. The results of a practice test allow students to see what they need to work on as test day approaches.

At Veritas Prep, we have several tutoring options designed to fit the needs of individual students. Our professional tutors teach students simple strategies that can help them to navigate even the toughest question on the new SAT. Students who sign up with Veritas Prep work with instructors who scored in the top one percent of individuals who’ve taken the SAT. In short, Veritas Prep is the place for students who want to study with the best! Check out our selection of helpful prep courses at Veritas Prep today!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Cyclicity in GMAT Remainder Questions (Part 2)

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLast week, we reviewed the concepts of cyclicity and remainders and looked at some basic questions. Today, let’s jump right into some GMAT-relevant questions on these topics:

 

 

If n is a positive integer, what is the remainder when 3^(8n+3) + 2 is divided by 5?

(A) 0

(B) 1

(C) 2

(D) 3

(E) 4

In this problem, we are looking for the remainder when the divisor is 5. We know from last week that if we get the last digit of the dividend, we will be able to find the remainder, so let’s focus on finding the units digit of 3^(8n + 3) + 2.

The units digit of 3 in a positive integer power has a cyclicity of: 3, 9, 7, 1

So the units digit of 3^(8n + 3) = 3^(4*2n + 3) will have 2n full cycles of 3, 9, 7, 1 and then a new cycle will start:

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7

Since the exponent a remainder of 3, the new cycle ends at 3, 9, 7. Therefore, the units digit of 3^(8n + 3) is 7. When you add another 2 to this expression, the units digit becomes 7+2 = 9.

This means the units digit of 3^(8n+3) + 2 is 9. When we divide this by 5, the remainder will be 4, therefore, our answer is E.

Not so bad; let’s try a data sufficiency problem:

If k is a positive integer, what is the remainder when 2^k is divided by 10?

Statement 1: k is divisible by 10

Statement 2: k is divisible by 4

With this problem, we know that the remainder of a division by 10 can be easily obtained by getting the units digit of the number. Let’s try to find the units digit of 2^k.

The cyclicity of 2 is: 2, 4, 8, 6. Depending on the value of k is, the units digit of 2^k will change:

If k is a multiple of 4, it will end after one cycle and hence the units digit will be 6.

If k is 1 more than a multiple of 4, it will start a new cycle and the units digit of 2^k will be 2.

If k is 2 more than a multiple of 4, it will be second digit of a new cycle, and the units digit of 2^k will be 4.

If k is 3 more than a multiple of 4, it will be the third digit of a new cycle and the units digit of 2^k will be 8.

If k is 4 more than a multiple of 4, it will again be a multiple of 4 and will end a cycle. The units digit of 2^k will be 6 in this case.

and so on…

So what we really need to find out is whether k is a multiple of 4, one more than a multiple of 4, two more than a multiple of 4, or three more than a multiple of 4.

Statement 1: k is divisible by 10

With this statement, k could be 10 or 20 or 30 etc. In some cases, such as when k is 10 or 30, k will be two more than a multiple of 4. In other cases, such as when k is 20 or 40, k will be a multiple of 4. So for different values of k, the units digit will be different and hence the remainder on division by 10 will take multiple values. This statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: k is divisible by 4

This statement tells you directly that k is divisible by 4. This means that the last digit of 2^k is 6, so when divided by 10, it will give a remainder of 6. This statement alone is sufficient. therefore our answer is B.

Now, to cap it all off, we will look at one final question. It is debatable whether it is within the scope of the GMAT but it is based on the same concepts and is a great exercise for intellectual purposes. You are free to ignore it if you are short on time or would not like to go an iota beyond the scope of the GMAT:

What is the remainder of (3^7^11) divided by 5?

(A) 0

(B) 1

(C) 2

(D) 3

(E) 4

For this problem, we need the remainder of a division by 5, so our first step is to get the units digit of 3^7^{11}. Now this is the tricky part – it is 3 to the power of 7, which itself is to the power of 11. Let’s simplify this a bit; we need to find the units digit of 3^a such that a = 7^{11}.

We know that 3 has a cyclicity of 3, 9, 7, 1. Therefore (similar to our last problem) to get the units digit of 3^a, we need to find whether a is a multiple of 4, one more than a multiple of 4, two more than a multiple of 4 or three more than a multiple of 4.

We need a to equal 7^{11}, so first we need to find the remainder when a is divided by 4; i.e. when 7^{11} is divided by 4.

For this, we need to use the binomial theorem we learned earlier in this post (or we can use the method of “pattern recognition”):

The remainder of 7^{11} divided by 4

= The remainder of (4 + 3)^{11} divided by 4

= The remainder of 3^{11} divided by 4

= The remainder of 3*3^{10} divided by 4

= The remainder of 3*9^5 divided by 4

= The remainder of 3*(8+1)^5 divided by 4

= The remainder of 3*1^5 divided by 4

= The remainder of 3 divided by 4, which itself = 3

So when 7^{11} is divided by 4, the remainder is 3. This means 7^{11} is 3 more than a multiple of 4; i.e. a is 3 more than a multiple of 4.

Now we go back to 3^a. We found that a is 3 more than a multiple of 4. So there will be full cycles (we don’t need to know the exact number of cycles) and then a new cycle with start with three digits remaining:

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7

With this pattern, we see the last digit of 3^7^11 is 7. When this 7 is divided by 5, remainder will be 2 – therefore, our answer is C.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

Does a Business School Visit Affect Your Chances of Admission?

campus tourVisiting a business school before officially applying is always recommended to MBA candidates, but for the most part, schools will not automatically assess an applicant negatively if they are unable to visit. There are so many factors involved when considering how a school visit will affect your candidacy, the best way to view them is as something that can potentially help you, but won’t directly hurt either. Let’s look at some of the overall benefits to visiting schools before applying to them:

Visiting a business school is a great opportunity to both do some primary research on the school itself, and to add some fodder to your application, which should improve the package you eventually submit. Not only will a visit actually improve the context of your application, it will also help you support your eventual decision-making process (if admitted) which is an added benefit.

A school visit is also an unprecedented opportunity to connect directly with decision makers – I know many students who have made strong impressions with admissions committee members leading directly to positive notations being added to their candidate folder. Again, positive interactions like this can certainly push fringe candidates across the line to the “admit pile” and further boost already strong candidates.

Business school campus visits can also add context to more troubled packages that require a bit more clarity and discussion of potential red flags. Without directly connecting with admissions reps via an in-person campus visit, this opportunity cannot exist for candidates with more complex situations. If this sounds like you, if it is possible for you to visit campuses, it is something I strongly suggest.

Now, every circumstance is certainly not the same. Distance is definitely a huge factor in determining an applicant’s ability to travel and visit. International candidates or those travelling from a far distance may be at a perceived disadvantage here, but again, keep in mind the positive impact this visit can have on your chances; look at the business school visit as a good decision if you can feasibly make it, but as having a neutral effect on your application if you cannot.

Make the decision that makes the most sense for you. Regardless of how many business schools you visit, if you have not created a compelling application package and/or are a great fit on paper, then a school visit will not save your candidacy. Focus on creating a breakthrough application and utilize the school visit as an additional opportunity to bring your candidacy alive for the admissions team.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

Admissions Tips and Ivy League College Consulting

AdmissionsHigh school students who plan to apply to Ivy League colleges already know the importance of having a high GPA and impressive SAT scores. But what other qualifications are Ivy League admissions officials looking for? Let’s look at some valuable admissions tips for gaining acceptance into one of these exclusive schools.

 

Garner Compelling Recommendation Letters

One of the most valuable Ivy League admissions tips a student can follow is to get compelling recommendation letters from teachers, employers, or organization leaders. The most persuasive letters are written by teachers and other adults who know the student very well. For example, a student who has volunteered for four years in an after-school reading program for elementary school children could ask the director of the program to write a recommendation letter – the director has known the student for years and would be able to write a glowing letter about the person’s character and dedication to the children in the program. A teacher or an employer a student has worked with for a long time would also be an excellent person to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Write a Memorable Admissions Essay

Admissions officials at Ivy League schools place a great deal of weight on an applicant’s essay. A well-written essay can give officials even more insight into a student’s character. A student should write a sincere essay in their own voice. Some students make the mistake of setting out to write an essay that they think will please admissions officials, however, experienced admissions officials can easily see through a contrived essay.

At Veritas Prep, we offer Ivy League consulting services to students who want to stand out to admissions officials, and one of our services is to offer guidance on admissions essays. We hire professional consultants who have worked in the admissions offices of Ivy League schools. In short, Veritas Prep students benefit from working with an Ivy League college counselor with inside knowledge of the process.

Participate in a Few Significant Extracurricular Activities

Some students think they need to participate in a dozen or more extracurricular activities in order to impress the officials at an Ivy League school. Unfortunately, if a student participates in this many activities, they will likely not be able to dedicate much time to any of those activities.

Instead, many admissions officials are looking for students who dedicate themselves to a few significant extracurricular activities. For example, one student may hold an office in student government all four years of high school while also working throughout middle school and high school as a volunteer at a summer camp for special-needs kids. Such involvement demonstrate the student’s dedication and desire to stick with something long-term – a trait that admissions officials look for.

Show Enthusiasm for a School and its Resources

Any experienced Ivy League college counselor knows the importance of expressing enthusiasm for a school. Not surprisingly, admissions officials want students who are excited about their school. One way a student can display this enthusiasm is to visit the school and tour its campus. This gives a student the chance to ask questions and sample the atmosphere of an Ivy League campus.

Staying in contact with admissions officers during the selection process is another way for a student to show their interest in the school. Admissions officials appreciate students who have specific reasons why they want to attend the school. For instance, a student who plans to major in biology may be enthusiastic about the high-tech equipment available to students in the school’s science labs. Show that this particular school will play an important part in your future plans.

The Benefits of Working With Ivy League College Consultants

At Veritas Prep, we offer many Ivy League consulting services, including advice on extracurricular activities, transcript evaluation, guidance regarding scholarships, and more. We help students to organize the process so they can apply to Ivy League colleges without missing a step. Our supportive consultants partner with students as they move toward their goal of attending a preferred school.

Along with our admissions consultants, we have a team of tutors who help students prepare for the SAT or the ACT. We use practice test results to individualize the test prep process. Then, students can take our courses and learn valuable test-taking strategies, either online or in person, to earn scores that will impress admissions officers. Contact Veritas Prep today to start on the path toward a degree from an Ivy League school!

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

For more college admissions tips, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT Science: What To Do on Test Day

SATIn my last post, I covered why the ACT science test is so difficult, and what habits you can develop to overcome its particular pitfalls and obstacles. However, with an ACT coming up in mid-December, you might not have time to fully perfect those habits. As the saying goes, no plan survives the first bullet; I’m sure no one is a stranger to the awful experience of totally freezing up on a timed test. Here are two strategies that could come in handy on test day in case you do get stumped on the Science Test:

1) Skip and Do What You Can
On nearly any given section on the science test, some questions will be significantly easier than others. As noted in my last post, when a question begins with the phrase “according to figure x…” or “according to the results of…” you probably can get the answer (in well under a minute!) by studying the relevant graph or table. However, some questions aren’t as straightforward, so one way you may lose a significant number of points in a section is if you get hung up on a tricky question. Some questions are so jargon heavy that they simply don’t make sense on a first read-through. Others require you to make logical inferences based on multiple paragraphs and corresponding visuals, making it unclear where to get the information you need from. The number one mistake students make when encountering such a question (either one they don’t understand or one they don’t know how to answer) is wasting too much time reading the adjoining dense paragraphs. There will always be more information in the accompanying piece than you need, so if you begin reading through it without an idea of what you need to look for, you’re likely to get bogged down in technical details. It’s easy to waste two or three minutes trying to answer a question this way.

In such situations, it’s much more pragmatic for you to identify which questions you can answer in the section. Chances are, there will be two or more questions that can be answered by looking at the provided visuals and ignoring everything else. And if you are sure to answer the easy questions first, then at least you’re making sure not to miss out on any easy points.

2) When You Return, Start Fresh
Although I do recommend initially skipping questions that seem unapproachable, I still think that all students can answer them correctly. That’s because the two major advantages of skipping hard questions are that 1) you have a chance to calm down and rebuild your confidence on easy questions and 2)you’ll have a chance to look at the hard question again with fresh eyes. If you answer all of the easy questions in the Science Test quickly (which you can do if you remember that tables and graphs are your friend!) you will have enough time left to work through the more difficult questions. And when you look at them a second time, you’ll also have to chance to use strategies you may have forgotten to use the first time. For example, take a look at the following difficult question:

dec11-RP

 

 

 

dec11-RP2

 

 

 

 

 

 

dec11-RP3

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time I ever did this question, it stumped me, because the corresponding tables (copied below) didn’t mention either paper or plastic.

So, I skipped the question, finished the rest of the questions, and then returned to it. The rest of the Science Test went more smoothly, so by the time I was back to the question, I was feeling more relaxed and confident. I even remembered my strategy: that whenever the tables didn’t provide enough information to answer a question, I needed to scan the paragraphs for the important words (in this case, paper and plastic, which aren’t listed on the tables). When I did, I found exactly what I needed:

dec11-RP4

 

By reading just the smallest chunk of each experiment description, I was able to realize that Experiment 1 measured how well tape stuck to paper, and that Experiment 2 measured how well tape stuck to plastic. I then noticed that, according to the tables,* it took more force to remove brand X tape from paper than it did plastic. Thus, I correctly chose answer A.

 

 

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

*Table 1 tells the results of Experiment 1, and Table 2 tells the results of Experiment 2

ACT Scores to Get Into an Ivy League School

Harvard Business School GuideIt’s likely that any high school student who wants to apply to several Ivy League colleges knows that these exclusive schools have especially high standards. For instance, an applicant must have impressive SAT scores and a well-written admissions essay along with glowing letters of recommendation. Students who are applying to these schools must be able to achieve high ACT scores for Ivy Leagues. These eight schools see an excellent ACT score as one indication that a student will be able to excel in challenging courses. Consider the typical ACT scores for Ivy League college students and learn what you can do to perform well on this difficult exam.

A Look at the ACT

What is the ACT? The ACT is a standardized test that gauges a student’s skills in the subjects of math, reading, science, and English. The results of the ACT reveal a student’s understanding of high-school-level material. An impressive ACT score means that a student has grasped high school work and is ready to move on to more challenging material. The ACT is usually taken during a student’s junior year of high school. Taking the ACT during junior year allows a student plenty of time to retake the test if necessary. Also, most high school students want to take the ACT during their junior year so they can tackle the SAT in their senior year.

Ivy League Schools and High ACT Scores

When it comes to ACT scores, Ivy League college applicants should earn a score of at least 32. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36 and a score of less than 31 is not likely to earn a student a place in the Ivy League.

ACT scores are important, but they aren’t the only thing taken into consideration by Ivy League schools. Admissions officials also look at a student’s academic performance during all four years of high school. They take special notice of students who sign up for challenging courses. A student who takes on the challenge of more difficult material is demonstrating an intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning. These are both important qualities in an incoming freshman.

In addition, Ivy League admissions officials pay attention to a student’s extracurricular activities, including sports teams, clubs, volunteer work, and more. They like to see students who dedicate themselves to worthwhile pursuits. So although a student does need a high ACT score for Ivy League acceptance, it does not override every other qualification.

Tips for Earning Impressive ACT Scores

High school students who want to earn ACT scores for Ivy Leagues should start by taking a practice test. The results of a practice test are invaluable as a student starts to craft a study plan. One student may find that they need to focus a lot of attention on improving their performance in plane geometry, while another student may see the need to improve their punctuation and grammar skills. The results of a practice test give students the opportunity to use their study periods in the most efficient way. Another tip for students who want to earn their best ACT score is to make studying for the ACT a part-time job. Preparing for the ACT in a gradual way over a period of months is the most effective method of absorbing all of the necessary material.

Our diligent instructors at Veritas Prep have navigated the ACT and achieved scores in the top one percent of all who took the test and teach strategies to students that allow them to showcase their strengths on the ACT. We instill in our students the confidence they need to earn high ACT scores. Ivy League admissions officials are sure to take notice!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on FacebookGoogle+, YouTube, and  Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: Plan Months Ahead, Not Weeks Ahead!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMy experience as an SAT private tutor for Veritas Prep has taught me many things beyond the core strategies that students need to learn to succeed on the test. Of course, the strategies we teach in our SAT courses are essential for success, but I have learned that many other additional factors will affect the degree of success and the amount of improvement that a student will be able to achieve on the SAT.

One of the biggest keys to maximum success, I have found, is to plan months ahead, so that it is possible to spread out the tutoring sessions over a period of months, not just weeks!

The total amount of tutoring hours is important, of course, but those tutoring hours and sessions are most effective when they are spread out over a decent period of time, so that the student is able to pace herself or himself appropriately. For example, two 2-hour sessions per week is a good pace – at that pace, a student can receive 36 hours of tutoring over a period of 9 weeks, or about 2 months.

Tutoring at such a pace is much more effective than trying to cram a large number of hours into a couple weeks, or a few weekends. The difference is that by studying the right way, the time between tutoring sessions will be able to play a valuable role in the student’s learning process because:

  • The material from each session has time to sink in.
  • The student has time to complete more practice sections and practice tests as homework in between sessions.
  • With the student doing more homework between sessions, the tutor is able to review more of the student’s work and monitor the student’s progress over a longer period of time. This allows the tutor to give the student better, personalized, and more detailed feedback.

The time to allow the material to sink in is especially important! Even if a hard-working student is able to do a large amount of homework assignments in a short period of time, that still does not make up for the lack of time between lessons.

Our vocabulary memorization strategies emphasize the importance of studying vocabulary every day, and especially of reviewing previous vocabulary words every day. This is because every day (and overnight), a person’s brain is processing and re-processing all the things he or she learned and studied – vocabulary a student studies sinks more deeply and more firmly into his or her memory the more days he or she reviews it.

The same process occurs with the material from each tutoring session sinking into the student’s brain. There is no substitute for at least a few days of studying – and especially, a few nights’ sleep – to give the student’s brain time to fully digest each lesson.

Dear families of prospective tutoring students: please plan months ahead, so that you give the student and his or her tutor the period of time they need to arrange a schedule of tutoring sessions at an appropriate and steady pace. Your advance planning will pay off big time with the student’s test score improvement!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Geoffrey Caveney is a Veritas Prep SAT Instructor in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University. In addition to SAT tutoring, Geoff has extensive experience teaching and coaching chess players. Chess taught Geoff that the right psychological mindset is just as important as the right strategies, and he brings this and other insights to his SAT tutoring.

3 Ways to Be a Successful Writer in College

EssaysAs you might expect, writing in college is very different from writing in high school. There are different types of assignments, different expectations, different grading, and different time structures. Yes, writing is still writing, but both the process and the end result are quite distinctive.

In high school, writing assignments are usually clearly defined. There are set topics and set ways to format the essay. The expectation in high school is that you will be able to effectively regurgitate other people’s ideas and research, with your own opinion relegated to a background role.

On the other hand, college assignments are often quite open ended. Gone are the days of uniform essay prompts and hand-holding guides to walk you through your paper! Professors will also expect their students to develop their own unique arguments and justifications for those arguments. Oh, and not to mention, college papers can be really long! If this sounds scary to you, don’t worry; it’s not so bad. Writing in college can actually be really fun. Just because college writing is different doesn’t mean you won’t be able to handle it. If you do need some help making the leap, here are some ways to make the transition from high school to college writing as smooth as can be:

1. Be confident in your own opinions. As 18-year olds talking about ideas that the big time academics have debated for years, there is a tendency to defer to the bigwigs’ thoughts and research. Describing instead of evaluating is a hallmark of a young, unconfident writer. In college, this won’t fly; instead, you need to stake out your own positions and defend them with your own crisp reasoning. You can use scholarly research to inform your opinions, but ultimately a good college paper hinges on proposing a unique, critically developed argument.

2. Make concrete plans – with incentives. The lack of structure on college writing assignments can be disconcerting. Sometimes professors will hand out essay topics one day and not mention the paper again until the day you hand it in. In order to avoid waiting around for help (that likely won’t come unless you seek it out…) and stressfully leaving it for the last day (trust me, it’s a bad idea…), it’s crucial that you make a writing plan and stick to it. Plan out when you’ll research. Plan out when you’ll take notes. Plan out when you’ll make an outline. Plan out when you’ll write the final essay. In short, plan! Writing your plan down, in a planner, scheduler, or your online calendar, is a good way to make it more concrete. Finally, take a hard look at yourself and realize what incentive you need to stick to your plan. Some people reward themselves with nice meals for accomplishing their goals. Other people force themselves to give away money if they fall behind. Find what works for you, and hold yourself to it!

3. Take advantage of all the writing resources at your disposal. It can often seem like you’re all on your own for papers in college. This lack of structure and aid is understandably scary. But never fear! There are always people to help you out, if you’re brave enough to seek them out. You can go to your professor’s office hours to bounce ideas off of her. You can meet with TA’s for more specific questions about content, style, and structure. If you’re lucky, your college will have a writing center that works with students on their writing assignments. If you did get this lucky (or were smart and chose a college that provided writing aid to students), definitely take advantage of this. The more smart people you have looking at your essay, the better the final product will be. Once you start searching around, you’ll find plenty of people willing and eager to help you out.

As long as you’re confident, disciplined, and willing to seek out help, success in college writing is right within your grasp!

Are you starting to work on your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation
By Aidan Calvelli

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Cyclicity in GMAT Remainder Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomUsually, cyclicity cannot help us when dealing with remainders, but in some cases it can. Today we will look at the cases in which it can, and we will see why it helps us in these cases.

First let’s look at a pattern:

 

20/10 gives us a remainder of 0 (as 20 is exactly divisible by 10)

21/10 gives a remainder of 1

22/10 gives a remainder of 2

23/10 gives a remainder of 3

24/10 gives a remainder of 4

25/10 gives a remainder of 5

and so on…

In the case of this pattern, 20 is the closest multiple of 10 that goes completely into all these numbers and you are left with the units digit as the remainder. Whenever you divide a number by 10, the units digit will be the remainder. Of course, if the units digit of a number is 0, the remainder will be 0 and that number will be divisible by 10 — but we already know that. So remainder when 467,639 is divided by 10 is 9. The remainder when 100,238 is divided by 10 is 8 and so on…

Along the same lines, we also know that every number that ends in 0 or 5 is a multiple of 5 and every multiple of 5 must end in either 0 or 5. So if the units digit of a number is 1, it gives a remainder of 1 when divided by 5. If the units digit of a number is 2, it gives a remainder of 2 when divided by 5. If the units digit of a number is 6, it gives a remainder of 1 when divided by 5 (as it is 1 more than the previous multiple of 5).

With this in mind:

20/5 gives a remainder of 0 (as 20 is exactly divisible by 5)

21/5 gives a remainder of 1

22/5 gives a remainder of 2

23/5 gives a remainder of 3

24/5 gives a remainder of 4

25/5 gives a remainder of 0 (as 25 is exactly divisible by 5)

26/5 gives a remainder of 1

27/5 gives a remainder of 2

28/5 gives a remainder of 3

29/5 gives a remainder of 4

30/5 gives a remainder of 0 (as 30 is exactly divisible by 5)

and so on…

So the units digit is all that matters when trying to get the remainder of a division by 5 or by 10.

Let’s take a few questions now:

What is the remainder when 86^(183) is divided by 10?

Here, we need to find the last digit of 86^(183) to get the remainder. Whenever the units digit is 6, it remains 6 no matter what the positive integer exponent is (previously discussed in this post).

So the units digit of 86^(183) will be 6. So when we divide this by 10, the remainder will also be 6.

Next question:

What is the remainder when 487^(191) is divided by 5?

Again, when considering division by 5, the units digit can help us.

The units digit of 487 is 7.

7 has a cyclicity of 7, 9, 3, 1.

Divide 191 by 4 to get a quotient of 47 and a remainder of 3. This means that we will have 47 full cycles of “7, 9, 3, 1” and then a new cycle will start and continue until the third term.

7, 9, 3, 1

7, 9, 3, 1

7, 9, 3, 1

7, 9, 3, 1

7, 9, 3

So the units digit of 487^(191) is 3, and the number would look something like ……………..3

As discussed, the number ……………..0 would be divisible by 5 and ……………..3 would be 3 more, so it will also give a remainder of 3 when divided by 5.

Therefore, the remainder of 487^(191) divided by 5 is 3.

Last question:

If x is a positive integer, what is the remainder when 488^(6x) is divided by 2?

Take a minute to review the question first. If you start by analyzing the expression 488^(6x), you will waste a lot of time. This is a trick question! The divisor is 2, and we know that every even number is divisible by 2, and every odd number gives a remainder 1 when divided by 2. Therefore, we just need to determine whether 488^(6x) is odd or even.

488^(6x) will be even no matter what x is (as long as it is a positive integer), because 488 is even and we know even*even*even……(any number of terms) = even.

So 488^(6x) is even and will give remainder 0 when it is divided by 2.

That is all for today. We will look at some GMAT remainders-cyclicity questions next week!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 2

professor futuramaWelcome back ACT Preppies! If you recall from last weeks blog post, we started to deconstruct the ACT science section. We reviewed the first part of the strategy “changing where you first look.” Now, let’s go over the second step.

As you may have noticed, some questions refer to information from the dense paragraphs that accompany tables. In these cases, language in the question will tip you off; for example, the question will read something like this:

rp sci 6

 

 

 

Notice that the question asks you about the design of the study. Whenever you are asked about the design or set-up, rather than just the results, you should know to immediately look at the referenced study, because the tables will not give you enough information. Note, in addition to looking first at the referenced study, you should specifically look for words from the answer choices, since those are the relevant terms to pay attention to.

Here are the related paragraphs in the section. Give them a read, and then see if you can answer the question on your own, before looking at the explanation:

rp sci 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explanation:

The correct answer is G. Given that a controlled variable is one that scientists keep constant in order to measure other variables, the line “two seed dishes were placed in each site” clearly communicates that the dishes are the controlled variable.

In sum, the most important habit you can develop to master the ACT Science Test is always looking at the most relevant piece of information first. When you are asked about the results*, always look at the tables or other relevant visual information pieces. When you are asked about experiment design or underlying concepts in the experiments, use the terms in the answer choices to skim the dense paragraphs.

Footnote

*When you are asked about simple relationships between variables:

Tables, graphs, and visual information pieces are often also often the best places to find your answer. The question will usually begin with a phrase like,” According to Figure, Graph, or Chart x…”, which will tip you off as to which graph you should look at. Consider:

rp sci 8

 

 

 

Even without knowing anything about the study, you can answer this question if you just look at the axis of Figure 1:

rp sci 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer: C!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

 

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Detroit Lions Teach How NOT to Take the GMAT

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’re applying to business schools in Round 2, you’re looking for good news (acceptance!) or a chance to advance to the next round (you’ve been invited to interview!) or even just a lack of bad news (you’re on the waitlist…there’s still a chance!) in January or February. Well if those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it, you’d be well served to avoid the pitfalls of the Detroit Lions, an NFL franchise that hasn’t had January/February good news or a chance to advance since 1991.

Any Detroit native could write a Grishamesque (same thing year after year, but we keep coming back for more) series of books about the many losing-based lessons the Lions have taught over the years, but this particular season beautifully showcases one of the most important GMAT lessons of all:

Finish the job.

Six weeks ago, this lesson was learned as Calvin Johnson took the game-winning touchdown within inches of the goal line before having the ball popped out by Seattle Seahawks star Kam Chancellor. And last night this lesson was learned as Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers completed a 60+ yard Hail Mary pass on an untimed final down.

On the GMAT, you have the same opportunities and challenges as the Detroit Lions do: stiff competition (there are Rodgerses and Chancellors hoping to get that spot at Harvard Business School, too) and a massive penalty for doing everything right until the last second. Lions fans and GMAT instructors share the same pain — our teams and our students are often guilty of doing absolutely everything right and then making one fatal mistake at the finish and not getting any credit for it. Consider the example:

A bowl of fruit contains 14 apples and 23 oranges. How many oranges must be removed so that 70% of the pieces of fruit in the bowl will be apples?

(A) 3

(B) 6

(C) 14

(D) 17

(E) 20

Here, most GMAT students get off to a great start, just like the Lions did going up 17-0. They know that the 14 apples (that number remains unchanged) need to represent 70% of the new total. If 14 = 0.7(x), then the algebra becomes quick. Multiply both sides by 10 to get rid of the decimal: 140 = 7x. Then divide both sides by 7 and you have x = 20. And you also have your first opportunity to “Lion up”: 20 is an answer choice! But 20 doesn’t represent the number of oranges; that’s the total for pieces of fruit after the orange removal. So 20 is a trap.

You then need to recognize that 14 of that 20 is apples, so you have 14 apples and 6 oranges in the updated bowl. But Lions beware! 6 is an answer choice, but it’s not the right one: you have 6 oranges LEFT but the question asks for the number REMOVED. That means that you have to subtract the 6 you kept from the 23 you started with, and the correct answer is D, 17.

What befalls many GMAT students is that ticking clock and the pressure to move on to the next problem. By succumbing to that time/pace pressure — or by being so relieved, and maybe even surprised, that their algebra is producing numbers that match the answer choices — they fail to play all the way to the final gun, and like the Lions, they tragically lose a “game” (or problem) that they should have won. Which, as any Lions fan will tell you, is tragic. When you get blown out in football or you simply can’t hack the math on the GMAT, it’s sad but not devastating: you’re just not good enough (sorry, Browns fans). But when you’ve proven that you’re good enough and lose out because you didn’t finish the job, that’s crushing.

Now, like Lions fans talking about the phantom facemask call last night, you may be thinking, “That’s unfair! What a dirty question to ask about how many ‘left over’ instead of how many remaining. I hate the GMAT and I hate the refs!” And regardless of whether you have a fair point, you have to recognize that it’s part of the game.

The GMAT won’t give you credit for being on the right track — you have to get the problem right and be ready for that misdirection in the question itself. So learn from the Lions and make sure you finish every problem by double-checking that you’ve answered exactly the question that they asked. Finish the job, and you won’t have to wait 24 years and counting to finally have good news in January.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 1

science flaskIf you’re like 90% of my students, then you find the ACT Science Test to be the either the first or second most difficult section on the ACT. Which makes total sense, given that you are dealing with questions such as this:

Scientist 2 says that a protein may be trapped in a moderately high-energy shape. Which of the following findings, if true, could be used to counter this argument?

  1. A) Once a protein has achieved its tertiary structure, all of the folding patterns at the local level are stable.
  2. B) Enough energy is available in the environment to overcome local energy barriers, driving the protein to its lowest energy shape.
  3. C) During protein synthesis, the secondary structure of a protein is determined before the tertiary structure is formed.
  4. D) Proteins that lose their tertiary or quaternary structure also tend to lose their biological functions.

And this:

Which of the following equations correctly calculates R (in nm) for Objective Lens 2, using light with a wavelength of 425nm?

  1. A) R = 425 / 2(.10)
  2. B) R = 425 / 2(.25)
  3. C) R = 10/ 2(425)
  4. D) R = 0.25 / 2(425)

Questions like these seem challenging for two related reasons. The first reason has to do with the technical jargon (i.e. all those headache-inducing terms like “moderately high-energy shape”, “wavelength of 425nm”  and  “tertiary structure”) that seems to complicate both of the above questions. In brief, as Daniel Kahneman describes in his magnum opus, Thinking, Fast and Slow, when a person encounters anything unfamiliar, including words she rarely comes across in everyday life, she is more likely to feel drained and/or frustrated. This is exactly what happens to many students when they read the above questions; almost right away, they feel stressed. And notably, their first reaction is to assume that because of all the big, ugly words, the question will be difficult to answer.

This brings us to the second reason as to why these questions are challenging. Because most students immediately assume that such questions will be difficult to answer, they don’t search for an easy way to solve them. For example, they waste time by reading the dense paragraphs that accompany the tables or by trying to understand the exact meanings of complicated words. In order to help my students get in the habit of finding more efficient and less-stressful approaches (which do exist!) to solving such problems, I teach them the following test strategy, which I call “change where you first look”.

The most important habit you need to learn to tackle the ACT section:

Let’s take a look at some real ACT Science questions chalk full of technical jargon.

rp sci 1

 

 

 

 

rp sci 2

 

 

 

 

The biggest mistake a student answering these questions could make would be to read the accompanying paragraphs to try to understand what the heck “elaisome” is, or why “ant-planted’ plants survive longer. The reason you don’t need to waste time doing this? Whenever you see questions that say “according to the results of the studies”, nine times out of ten you only have to look at the provided tables, graphs, or charts, to find the all information you need to answer the questions. And on the ACT Science Test, tables are your best friend. I’ll show you what I mean; take a look at the following tables that will give us the answers to the above questions:

rp sci 3

 

 

 

 

 

rp sci 4

 

 

rp sci 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key to reading these tables is to look along their rows and columns to find the labels that match the terms (the technical jargon) in the questions. For example, notice that the answer choices in the first question match the row labels on Table 3 (seeds that germinated, plants alive after 1 year, plants alive after 2 years, seeds produced per plant after 2 years), and that the question (what can be said when comparing hand-planted and ant-planted seeds) corresponds to the column labels on Table 3. In other words, all you have to do to find the answer is find which answer choice correctly matches one of the rows. And that would be answer choice A; according to the table 39 ant-planted seeds germinated, whereas only hand-planted seeds germinated.

Now that you’ve seen the power of using tables, go ahead and see if you can answer the second question on your own! All the information you need to answer is on Table 1.

Explanation for second question: The correct answer is C. Both species have elaisome masses of 6.2, so their masses of such are the same.

Stay tuned to next week for a second step to this strategy! See you next Monday!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

Don’t Panic! What to Do if You Are Rejected from Business School

MBA Interview QuestionsThe MBA application process is a lengthy and time-intensive experience that, for some candidates, can span multiple years of preparation. From carefully crafted resumes to diligent GMAT prep, a lot of time and resources will be invested in the typical MBA application process. Of all the investments. however, optimism is probably the most taxing for prospective students, especially if things do not turn out in a positive manner.

Part of applying to business school is anticipating rejection; in fact, for those pursuing a top MBA program, more will experience the pain of rejection than the joy of acceptance. The numbers bear this out every year, so it is less about whether you will receive a ding, but instead how you will deal with that ding. There is no tragedy in being denied admission from one of your target programs, but there is one if you are not prepared to handle it.

Let’s explore the best steps to dealing with the ding:

1) Self-Evaluate Submission

This is the first and probably most important step an applicant can take to kick-start the post-ding process. Really take a look back at your application and honestly assess the strengths and weaknesses of your profile. Look at where you stand on paper (GMAT, GPA, etc.) as well as how you fare in some of the softer areas like the essay – scrutinize your whole profile. The data side is easy; you can compare average and median scores to determine your competitiveness in these areas. The “softer” areas are a bit more complicated, but assessing whether or not you answered all questions as they were posed, and to the best of your abilities, is a good place to start. The information gleaned from this self-assessment should fuel your next steps as a potential re-applicant.

2) Re-Evaluate Timeline

At this point, you’ve come to grips with your rejection and have a good understanding of some of your missteps, so now is the time to determine next steps. Applications are all about timing, so consider if you have the time or capacity to implement the changes necessary to reach admissions success. For some, the changes needed will be minimal, for others the changes needed will be far more expansive.

3) Prepare for the Future

After re-evaluating your timeline, you’re ready to prepare for the future. The first question to ask yourself should be whether you plan to continue applying to business school at all. Creating a winning application is not easy, so making the necessary changes to a rejected application may not be seen as worth the effort for some. Now if you do plan to continue applying, it is important to address the issues outlined above and create an action plan. Whether that action plan is enacted in the current application cycle or in subsequent years, having an approach to correct the holes in your package is key.

A ding is not the end of the world! Follow the tips above to bounce back and earn the letter of admission you deserve.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

Is Your GMAT Score More Important Than Ever?

GMAT ReasoningThe dreaded GMAT has long been one of the most feared components of the MBA application process. For many years the importance of the GMAT has been a bit overvalued by applicants, with too much focus being placed on the score and not enough on other areas of the application process. Just as admissions committees’ consistent message of their reliance on holistic reviews of candidate profiles has begun to sink in, a shift has seemingly started back the other way.

Although there has been a consistent upward trends over the last few decades in GMAT scores across the board, over the last year or two in particular the average GMAT scores at top MBA programs like Northwestern’s Kellogg School, Chicago’s Booth School and Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have risen by record percentage points. These record averages should signal to prospective applicant’s the increased importance of the GMAT.

Now, GMAT scores have always been important aspects of the MBA admissions process, but should applicants be more concerned with the rising scores at these top MBA programs?  The quick answer is no!  But you do want to accept this answer with a bit of a caveat: with dramatically rising GMAT scores across the board, it is even more important for applicants to target programs that are a clear fit for their background and showcased aptitude (GPA/GMAT). More specifically, applying to programs where your GMAT score falls below the average score has become a riskier option.

The typical candidate should make sure they hit or are very close to the listed averages. Now for candidates coming from a more competitive applicant pool like the Indian male, White male, and Asian male, it is important to target a score above schools’ listed averages to ensure you stand out from the pack. For non-traditional applicants, a strong GMAT score can be a way to stand out in the face of rising scores and increased competition.

The main takeaway from this trend for all applicants should be to really focus up front on creating the right list of target schools. Mind you, this list should not simply be one of the top 10 programs. Instead, create a list where your academic aptitude, professional goals, and other data points all align with the programs you plan to apply to so that you are able to maximize your chances of gaining admission to your target schools.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Good SAT Essay

SAT Tip of the Week - FullEven though you get a whole 25 minutes to piece together your SAT essay, the grader who reads it will only take around 1-2 minutes to evaluate it. You might think this is annoying or unfair – after all, you probably put a lot of thought into your essay and want the reader to appreciate your hard work. However, this is the reality of the situation, and it’s your (and our!) job to figure out how to take advantage of it. So how should you go about doing this? The answer is simple to understand, and not much harder to do: Clarity.

In your high school essays, you might have been taught to write with nuance, to “show not tell.” This is good advice for other writing assignments, but not for the SAT essay. The rushed graders are unlikely to notice detailed intricacy in your essay, but they will recognize a clear, direct argument.

The best way to make a clear argument (in my words) is to “hit the reader over the head” with the point you’re trying to make. Going over the top in restating and explaining your main argument – which will show up in your thesis statement – is a foolproof way to ensure the reader will know exactly what you are attempting to say. My advice is to start with a strong thesis in the intro paragraph, but also include a restated version of that thesis statement in all of your body paragraphs. The goal of the examples in your body paragraphs should be to relate them back to your thesis, so framing the thesis in each of those paragraphs leads the grader to make that connection naturally.

It’s key to make sure that your examples are clearly related to your thesis, as well. The more it’s clear why you chose those examples, the better the argument the grader will think that you’re making. The best kind of example is an obvious one that is well explained, not a subtle one that requires a ton of confusing exegesis.

Alright, so now you know you have to be clear, but you may be asking, “What exactly does being clear look like?” Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Here’s an example of a recent SAT essay prompt with a corresponding clear and unclear thesis:

Prompt: Do good intentions matter, or should people be judged only according to the results of their actions?

Clear Thesis: It is most fair to judge people based on the goodness of their intentions because humans cannot absolutely control the effects their actions have on the world.

Unclear Thesis: Since the results of our actions are shaped by factors that may or may not be outside of human control, it is best in most cases to judge people based on what we perceive their intentions to be, although it is often difficult to accurately tell what people’s intentions really are.

The clear thesis gets right to the point. It doesn’t beat around the bush, introduce ambiguous claims, or contradict itself. The unclear thesis wavers, and it’s difficult to even follow what argument it is trying to make. As is evident in these two examples, the clearer your thesis is (and the more clear your examples are) the better the grader’s understanding of your essay will be. And of course, the better the grader’s understanding, the better your score!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

What Will YOU Pay for School, and When?

BailoutFiguring out your financial aid package is often not a thrilling pre-college activity. While actual financial aid award letters may appear to be simple, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly what needs to be paid by you or your family, and when. Here, I’ll break down the typical elements of aid packages, and show how and when the costs impact you and your family.

1. Expected Family Contribution. Often times, a financial aid award letter begins with information about the overall cost to attend that school, and how much that school has determined that your family (or both you and your family) can pay. You’ll be given a total amount expected to be contributed by you and your family. Any money expected to be paid by you and your family is needed by the time of your first tuition payment (around the time when you start school); however, many schools allow you to pay in monthly installments (which involve an extra fee). If your school lists you separately from your family, your contribution will be expected to come from a summer job between your last year of high school and your first semester and/or from any savings or trust fund listed in your application. International students are usually not expected to work in the summer before attending college.

2. Your Financial Aid Award. Next will be information about your actual financial aid award, which will be based on that family contribution mentioned above. So, if your school has determined that your family can’t pay $27,000 of your tuition, room and board, and fees, your aid will cover that amount of need. In this section, a school may list some sources of funds that are not required to be paid back. These include scholarships and grants. Hopefully you’ll have a few of those!

3. Loans & Work Study. The rest of your aid award letter will be self-help. Here, you’ll see loans and possibly work study. You’re required to pay back loans, and the exact amount of repayment is determined by how much money you borrowed, the interest on the loan, and the repayment plan you choose. You’ll be expected to start paying most of them back after you’ve graduated and started working, although if you drop below half-time enrollment or leave school, you’ll be expected to pay them back then. Finally, work study may be offered to you to help cover your personal expenses during the school year. I didn’t understand this initially when I was in college, but you’re not required to pay this money to your school. You’ll simply have to get a part time job (usually one on campus) that participates in a federal work study program, and the government will help pay part of your salary.

There are so many different combinations of financial aid awards, so these aren’t always hard-and-fast rules. But if you keep these general guidelines in mind, you’ll be much better able to plan your finances in college, and beyond!

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), with the aid of several scholarships, grants, fellowships. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

 

 

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Cyclicity of Units Digits on the GMAT (Part 2)

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomAs discussed last week, all units digits have a cyclicity of 1 or 2 or 4. Digits 2, 3, 7 and 8 have a cyclicity of 4, i.e. the units digit repeats itself every 4 digit:

Cyclicity of 2: 2, 4, 8, 6

Cyclicity of 3: 3, 9, 7, 1

Cyclicity of 7: 7, 9, 3, 1

Cyclicity of 8: 8, 4, 2, 6

Digits 4 and 9 have a cyclicity of 2, i.e. the units digit repeats itself every 2 digits:

Cyclicity of 4: 4, 6

Cyclicity of 9: 9, 1

Digits 0, 1, 5 and 6 have a cyclicity of 1, i.e. the units digit is 0, 1, 5, or 6 respectively.

Now let’s take a look at how to apply these fundamentals:

What is the units digit of 813^(27)?

To get the desired units digit here, all we need to worry about is the units digit of the base, which is 3.

Remember, our cyclicity of 3 is 3, 9, 7, 1 (four numbers total).

We need the units digit of 3^(27). How many full cycles of 4 will be there in 27? There will be 6 full cycles because 27 divided by 4 gives 6 as quotient and 3 will be the remainder. So after 6 full cycles of 4 are complete, a new cycle will start:

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

… (6 full cycles)

3, 9, 7 (new cycle for remainder of 3)

7 will be the units digit of 3^(27), so 7 will be the units digit of 813^(27).

Let’s try another question:

What is the units digit of 24^(1098)?

To get the desired units digit here, all we need to worry about is the units digit of the base, which is 4.

Remember, our cyclicity of 4 is 4 and 6 (this time, only 2 numbers).

We need the units digit of 24^(1098) – every odd power of 24 will end in 4 and every even power of 24 will end in 6.

Since 1098 is even, the units digit of 24^(1098) is 6.

Not too bad; let’s try something a little harder:

What is the units digit of 75^(25)^5

Note here that you have 75 raised to power 25 which is further raised to the power of 5.

25^5 is not the same as 25*5 – it is 25*25*25*25*25 which is far more complicated. However, the simplifying element of this question is that the last digit of the base 75 is 5, so it doesn’t matter what the positive integer exponent is, the last digit of the expression will always be 5.

Now let’s take a look at a Data Sufficiency question:

Given that x and y are positive integers, what is the units digit of (5*x*y)^(289)?

Statement 1: x is odd.

Statement 2: y is even.

Here there is a new complication – we don’t know what the base is exactly because the base depends on the value of x and y. As such, the real question should be can we figure out the units digit of the base? That is all we need to find the units digit of this expression.

When 5 is multiplied by an even integer, the product ends in 0.

When 5 is multiplied by an odd integer, the product ends in 5.

These are the only two possible cases: The units digit must be either 0 or 5.

With Statement 1, we do not know whether y is odd or even, we only know that x is odd. If y is odd, x*y will be odd. If y is even, x*y will be even. Since we don’t know whether x*y is odd or even, we don’t know whether 5*x*y will end in 5 or 0, so this statement alone is not sufficient.

With Statement 2, if y is even, x*y will certainly be even because an even * any integer will equal an even integer. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether x is odd or even – regardless, 5*x*y will be even, hence, it will certainly end in 0.

As we know from our patterns of cyclicity, 0 has a cyclicity of 1, i.e. no matter what the positive integer exponent, the units digit will be 0. Therefore, this statement alone is sufficient and the answer is B (Statement 2 alone is sufficient but Statement 1 alone is not sufficient).

Finally, let’s take a question from our own book:

If n and a are positive integers, what is the units digit of n^(4a+2) – n^(8a)?

Statement 1: n = 3

Statement 2: a is odd.

We know that the cyclicity of every digit is either 1, 2 or 4. So to know the units digit of n^{4a+2} – n^{8a}, we need to know the units digit of n. This will tell us what the cyclicity of n is and what the units digit of each expression will be individually.

Statement 1: n = 3

As we know from our patterns of cyclicity, the cyclicity of 3 is 3, 9, 7, 1

Plugging 3 into “n”, n^{4a+2} = 3^{4a+2}

In the exponent, 4a accounts for “a” full cycles of 4, and then a new cycle begins to account for 2.

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9

The units digit here will be 9.

Again, plugging 3 into “n”, n^{8a} = 3^{8a}

8a is a multiple of 4, so there will be full cycles of 4 only. This means the units digit of 3^{8a} will be 1.

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

3, 9, 7, 1

Plugging these answers back into our equation: n^{4a+2} – n^{8a} = 9 – 1

The units digit of the combined expression will be 9 – 1 = 8.

Therefore, this statement alone is sufficient.

In Statement 2, we are given what the exponents are but not what the value of n, the base, is. Therefore, this statement alone is not sufficient, and our answer is A (Statement 1 alone is sufficient but Statement 2 alone is not sufficient).

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

The Cliché Advice is Pretty Good Advice: 5 Ways to Handle Social Anxiety in College

Letter of RecommendationGoing off to college can be scary for a lot of reasons. The difficult academics and the fact that it’s many people’s first time away from home are big challenges, but the fear of not fitting in socially is incredibly common among soon-to-be college freshmen. During orientation, there will be throngs of new people, forced and awkward interactions, and a pervading sense that everyone else has already gotten everything figured out. All these forces – coupled with the transition to an entirely new way of life (college living) – can be quite daunting when a person starts to think about how he or she is going to go about making meaningful friendships.

If this sounds like you, don’t be afraid! Feeling nervous about making friends and fitting in is a perfectly normal part of the transition to college. Being thrown from a position where you’ve known everyone in your school for your whole childhood into a place where every face is unrecognizable is a scary thing for anyone, regardless of what they might tell you. Never fear, though, these worries are easily overcome: here are a few tips and things to keep in mind as you try to navigate the collegiate friend-making process.

1. Remember that everyone is in the same position as you. It’s helpful to keep in mind that you aren’t alone in feeling nervous. Everyone has been thrust into the same new situation that you are in. This does mean that other people are nervous, but it also means that they are actively seeking out new friends; when two people who are looking for friends meet each other, there’s a good chance they will find something to be friendly about! If that doesn’t convince, you, just remember that millions of people have already gone through the same process and came out all right. Think of the stories your uncle has probably told you about the fun, crazy times he had with his freshman roommate!

2. The people who look like they have everything figured out, don’t! It’s too easy to look around at all the smiling faces around you and worry that everyone else has already found their best friends.  Most of the time, those people are just really good actors. As the saying goes, people will “fake it ‘til they make it,” so there’s no need to feel behind if you don’t yet feel like you’re the pinnacle of popularity.

3. Go outside your comfort zone – but stay true to yourself. If you’re anything like me (a pretty hard core introvert), the prospect of going to a random meet-and-greet sounds about as fun as counting blades of grass. However, I dragged myself out to class gatherings on the main green during my orientation, and while I didn’t find any of my best friends there, it is nice to see people around campus that I met during my first few days at school. Be social and say yes to things when you’re on the fence, but once you’re actually at an event, make sure to be yourself. After all, you’ll only find real friends if they get to know the real you.

4. The cliché advice is pretty good advice. I’m sure you’ve heard the same refrains over and over again: Join clubs! Meet people in classes! Talk to your neighbors! These might sound cheesy or overused, but they’re actually not bad pieces of advice. Orientation events can expose you to a wide variety of people, but clubs and classes are places where you’re likely to meet people who have similar interests and hobbies. Additionally, it’s nice for your dorm to be a homey atmosphere, and being friendly with your dorm-mates only contributes to that good feeling!

5. Keep a long-term perspective. Making friends is hard, and it takes time. Manage your expectations so you don’t feel bad about yourself at all if you haven’t found the best friends you’ve ever met within the first two weeks of school. It’s okay if you’re not in love with every new person you meet. If you keep searching around and approach the endeavor with a positive attitude, sooner or later you will find a group of people that you can’t remember ever being in college without.

Take a breath, be yourself, and eschew any nervousness of being awkward. Chances are most people won’t remember you anyway, so go out, have fun, and make some great new pals!

Are you starting to work on your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

GMAT Tip of the Week: What Test-Takers Should Be Thankful For

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’re spending this Thanksgiving weekend studying for the GMAT in hopes of a monster score for your Round 2 applications, there’s a good chance you’re feeling anything but grateful. At the very least, that practice test kept you inside and away from the hectic horror that has become Black Friday, but it’s understandable that when you spend the weekend thinking more about pronouns than Pilgrims and modifiers than Mayflowers, your introduction to the holiday season has you saying “bah, humbug.”

As you study, though, keep the spirit of Thanksgiving close to your heart. Those who made the first pilgrimage to New England didn’t have it easy, either – Thanksgiving is about being grateful for the small blessings that allowed them to survive in the land of HBS, Yale, Sloan, and Tuck. And the GMAT gives you plenty to be thankful for as you attempt to replicate their journey to the heart of elite academia. This Thanksgiving, GMAT test-takers should be thankful for:

1) Answer Choices

While it’s normal to dislike standardized, multiple-choice tests, those multiple choices are often the key to solving problems efficiently and correctly. They let you know whether you can get away with an estimate, allow you to backsolve or pick numbers to test the choices, and offer you insight into how you should attack the problem (that square root of 3 probably came from a 30-60-90 triangle if you can find it). On the Verbal Section, they allow you to use process of elimination, and particularly on Sentence Correction, to see what the true Decision Points are. A test without answer choices would mean that you’d have to do every problem the long way, but those who know to be thankful for answer choices will often find a competitive advantage.

2) Right Triangles

Right triangles are everywhere on GMAT geometry problems, and learning to use them to your advantage gives you a huge (turkey?) leg up on the competition. Right triangles:

  • Provide you with side ratios, or at least the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Make the base-height combination for the area of a triangle easy (just use the two sides adjacent to the right angle as your base and height)
  • Allow you to use the Pythagorean Theorem to solve for the distance between any two points in the coordinate plane
  • Let you make the greatest difference between any two points in a square, rectangle, cylinder, or box the hypotenuse of a right triangle
  • Help you divide strange shapes into easy-to-solve triangles

Much of GMAT geometry comes down to finding and leveraging right triangles, so thankful that you have that opportunity.

3) Verbs

When there are too many differences between Sentence Correction answer choices, it can be difficult to determine which decision points are most important. One key: look for verbs. When answer choices have different forms of the same verb – whether different tenses or singular-vs.-plural – that’s nearly always a primary decision point and a decision that you can make well using logic. Does the timeline make sense or not? Is the subject singular or plural? Often the savviest test-takers are the ones who save the difficult decisions for last and look for verbs first. Whenever you see different versions of the same verb in the answer choices, be thankful – your job just got easier.

4) “The Other Statement”

Data Sufficiency is a challenging question type, and one that seems to always feature a very compelling trap answer. Very often that trap answer is tempting because:

A statement that didn’t look to be sufficient actually is sufficient.

A statement that looked sufficient actually isn’t.

And that, “Is this tricky statement sufficient or not?” decision is an incredibly difficult one in a vacuum, but the GMAT (thankfully!) gives you a clue: the other statement. When one statement is obvious, its role is often to serve as a clue (“you’d better consider whether you need to know this or not when you look at the other statement”) or a trap (“you actually don’t need this, but when we tempt you with it you’ll think you do”). In either case, the obvious statement is telling you what you need to consider – why would that piece of information matter, or not? So be thankful that Data Sufficiency doesn’t require you to confirm your decision on each statement alone before you get to look at them together; taking the hint from one statement is often the best way to effectively assess the other.

5) Extra Words in Critical Reasoning Conclusions

If you spend any of this holiday weekend watching football, watch what happens when the offense employs the “man in motion” play (having one of the wide receivers run from one side of the offense to the other). Either the defensive player opposite him follows (suggesting man coverage) or he doesn’t (suggesting zone). With the “man in motion”, the offense is probing the defense to see, “What kind of defense are you playing?”. On GMAT Critical Reasoning, extra words in the conclusion serve an almost identical purpose – if you’re looking carefully, you’ll see exactly what’s important to the problem:

Country X therefore has to increase jobs in oil refinement in order to avoid a surge in unemployment. (Why does it have to be refinement? The traps will be about other jobs related to oil but not specifically refinement.)

Therefore, Company Y needs to cut its marketing expenses. (Why marketing and not other kinds of expenses?)

The population of black earthworms is now almost equal to that of the red-brown earthworm, a result, say local ecologists, solely stemming from the blackening of the woods. (Solely? You can weaken this conclusion by finding just one alternate reason)

For much of the Verbal Section, the more words you have to read, the more difficult your job is to process them all. But on Critical Reasoning, be thankful when you see extra words in the conclusion – those words tell you exactly what game the author is playing.

6) The CAT Algorithm

For many test-takers, the computer-adaptive scoring algorithm is something to be angry or frustrated about, and certainly not something to be thankful for. But if you look from the right angle (and you know we’re already thankful for right angles…) there’s plenty to be happy about, including:

  • You’re allowed to miss questions and make mistakes. The CAT system ensures that everyone sees a challenging test, so everyone will make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect (and probably shouldn’t try).
  • You get your scores immediately. Talk to your friends taking the LSAT and see how they feel about turning in their answer sheet and then…waiting. In an instant gratification society, the GMAT gives you that instant feedback you crave. Do well and celebrate; do worse than you thought and immediately start game-planning the next round while it’s fresh in your mind.
  • It favors the prepared. You’re reading a GMAT blog during your spare time… you’ll be among those who prepare! The pacing is tricky since you can’t return to problems later, but remember that everyone takes the same test. If you’ve prepared and have a good sense of how to pace yourself, you’ll do better than those who are surprised by the setup and don’t plan accordingly. An overall disadvantage can still be a terrific competitive advantage, so as you’re looking for GMAT-themed things to be thankful for, keep your preparation in mind and be thankful that you’re working harder than your competition and poised to see the rewards!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Happy Thanksgiving from Veritas Prep!

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the past year, give thanks for all the good that is in your life… and be completely stressed out. Between gathering ingredients to roast the perfect turkey, formulating your plan of attack for Black Friday shopping, arranging your holiday decorations (Didn’t we just finish Halloween?), and mentally preparing yourself to interact with family members you may or may not be excited to see, add to that the stress of preparing for your educational future.

Whether you are studying to take the GMAT, GRE, SAT or ACT, or are tweaking your dream school application for the tenth time, the holidays are most certainly not the most relaxing time of the year.

At Veritas Prep, we’d like to make your holidays just a little less stressful by offering you our biggest discounts of the year for Black Friday: starting November 27, for an entire week, you can save up to $1,000 on test prep and admissions consulting services from Veritas Prep! This sale won’t last forever, so check out our discounts here and take advantage of the savings before it’s too late!

From everyone at Veritas Prep, we’d like to take this opportunity to express how thankful we are for our amazing students, instructors, admissions consultants, and staff that we are fortunate to be able to work with every day. We hope that wherever you are in the world, that you have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

VP-Black-Friday-1a

SAT Tip of the Week: Stop Saying That You Are Not a Good Test Taker!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThere are a number of ways that human beings self-sabotage. There are the obvious things that we do, such as making ourselves late or not trying to do things for fear that we will fail, and then there are the more insidious ways that we self-sabotage, such as telling ourselves that we “can’t” do or aren’t “good” at various things.  It is certainly true that most human beings are not born with the ability to be rock stars on standardized tests, but that does not mean that the skills necessary to succeed on an SAT can’t be learned.

The truth is that saying, “I’m not a good test taker,” gives that statement truth, but no one is good at anything until they become good at it.  So instead, change that statement to, “I’m going to be a great test taker!” and use the following strategies to take the fear of being bad at taking exams and transform it into the motivation to be great.

1) Acknowledge Your Feelings

Fear of failure is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it something that should be discounted. If a student feels anxiety, it is best to acknowledge that feeling so that it can be addressed properly. See if you can identify what specifically is causing the fear.  Is it a specific section of the SAT? Is it the thought of time running out?  Is it a worry that you will make arithmetic errors on the math section? All of these are valid concerns that can be approached with practical steps.

Remember, fear is essentially a projection of a negative outcome into an unknown (and unknowable) future! Think of something that you can work on right NOW that can help to address the particular source of your anxiety – for example, if you are worried about arithmetic, plan on doing some math problems that require a lot of arithmetic and be super specific about how you line up your equations and draw every single step.  This will show you that you are capable of doing the task. Don’t live in the future, focus on what can be done right now!

2) Change Your Mindset

Changing one’s mindset is an active process that involves acknowledging thoughts that are not helpful and attempting to focus on other thoughts that are more helpful.  Instead of being disappointed at your wrong answers, look at all the answers you got right.  What are you already good at?  Acknowledging that you have a number of skills that have already been developed not only gives you confidence, but also helps to focus your studying on the things that need the most work.  These are not things you are bad at, these are things you are soon to be good at!

3) Allow Time For Sleep

Your body needs sleep.  For most people 6-9 hours is an appropriate amount of sleep, but listen to your body.  If you feel that you are not giving yourself enough time to sleep, your body can suffer from sleep deficiency which can reduce mental and physical acuity.  It is worth mentioning that substances like caffeine have similar effects on the body to adrenaline, so it may be that avoiding coffee when you feel anxious will help to reduce the physical manifestations of anxiety like an increased heart rate and feeling of jitters.

4) Organize Your Time

This involves doing tasks in the moment rather than worrying about the future.  Create organized study schedules that address whatever SAT concerns you have and help to build the skills that you feel you need the most help with.  Create a list of the things you would like to work on in order of importance and then set aside time to practice each in turn. Over preparing is a great way to reduce anxiety – if you are truly prepared for an exam, you have very little to feel anxious about.  Especially work on that vocabulary: knowledge of vocabulary will not only help with the completing the sentences questions, but will also help you feel confident in deciphering complicated reading sections.

5) Visualize The Outcome You Want

In general, approaching tests with a positive attitude has a tremendous effect on real outcomes.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that positive visualization is associated with success in various pursuits.  Take a few minutes before you go to bed to visualize yourself receiving the score that you desire on the test.  This can go a long way to convincing yourself that you are capable of success.

The moral of this story is that telling yourself you are bad at things does nothing to actually accomplish anything practical, it simply affirms a destructive opinion and gives you permission to believe bad things about yourself.  So acknowledge your feelings, then start working on practical things that will help you become the test taker you are capable of being.  You can do it!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

Breaking Down Kellogg Evaluation Criteria

Kellogg School of ManagementThe Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has always taken a holistic view of their application process and the criteria with which it assesses candidates. Before diving head-first into the application process, candidates should review the evaluation criteria that the school has publicly communicated.

This approach will allow interested applicants a chance to strategize how they will best craft their profiles for success in applying to the the prestigious midwestern university. Now keep in mind, creating a game plan based on the evaluation criteria below should not be confused with trying to “game” the process – it should be instead used to focus your approach to the Kellogg application.

Let’s explore the five aspects of Kellogg’s evaluation criteria that the Admissions Committee utilizes for interested applicants:

1) Work Experience

This is business school after all, so your pre-MBA work experience will matter. Kellogg, like many other top MBA programs, is pre-disposed to strong brands, not just because these names have more cache, but because often these strong brands afford great development opportunities for those early in their careers. However, not having a strong brand on your resume is not necessarily a negative. The AdComm is really looking for the rigor and nature of your work experience here more so than a flashy brand. The more logical and upward-trending your work experience appears, the better off you will be in this area.

2) Impact

The criterion of impact connects directly with your work experience but is not limited exclusively to this domain. This single category can communicate a lot to the AdComm about your past, present and potential future. Kellogg seeks applicants who have driven impact in their past organizations and will continue to do so in the future, so make sure, if possible, you highlight your impact on the various organizations you have been a part of.

3) Professional Goals

Are your professional goals clear and logical? Do they align with your background? These are some of the questions you need to make sure you have articulated responses to. Kellogg wants to know that you have thought through your career goals as well as how their particular school can help you reach them, and specifically, Kellogg is seeking to determine whether the program can help you reach your goals given your background and the offerings of the school.

4) Leadership

Leadership skills are one of the top skills the AdComm at Kellogg look for in prospective students. Whether you are a seasoned professional or an applicant early in your career, it is important to showcase at the very least pockets of leadership in your background.  Leadership can exist anywhere, so make sure to canvas all aspects of your background to ensure you are highlighting your most relevant leadership experiences. Remember, leadership skills do not have to be limited to your professional experience –extra-curricular leadership experiences can be just as important if framed appropriately.  Kellogg is looking for the future leaders of tomorrow, so try to get the program excited about your leadership potential.

5) Interpersonal Skills

Coming from Kellogg, it should come as no surprise that this is a key evaluation point, given the educational approach that the school has pioneered and championed over the last few decades. Kellogg has built an unparalleled student community and has created a comprehensive application process that filters out the right type of applicants. Utilize the various touchpoints Kellogg offers via their application process to highlight the unique aspects of your personal and professional character and experiences.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Should You Take the ACT Plus Writing Test?

Essay As an ACT tutor, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by students is whether or not they should take the ACT Plus Writing test. Don’t let the fancy name throw you off; the ACT Plus Writing Test is just the ACT with an essay added onto the end. Unlike the SAT essay, however, the ACT essay is optional, so most ACT-takers inevitably wonder if it’s worth the extra time and effort to prepare for the ACT essay.

When I speak to any of my students about this in person, I always ask them the following questions, which I’ll now give to you:

  • Do the colleges you are applying to require it?
  • How much time do you have to prepare for the upcoming ACT?
  • How comfortable are you with timed and/or in-class essays in general?

So, let’s start with question 1. If you can’t answer that question now, not to worry, this handy search engine on the ACT website can find out the answer for you. I would recommend that you search for the requirements of both your “reach schools” and your “safety schools”. I say this because you’ll find as you get deeper into the college application process, you may change your mind about which school you actually want to attend. Maybe you thought that you wanted to go out of state, to one of your reach schools, but now you’ve decided that you’d like to stay closer to home. Or maybe you’ll realize that you could be a candidate for scholarship to a school that wasn’t on your mind a few months ago, because it didn’t have an elite name. In other words, be sure to cover all of your bases, so that you don’t run into a situation where you have to take an additional ACT just to get the essay score, because now you’re trying to get into a school (that requires the essay) that you’d previously overlooked.

An aside, your essay score will not affect your score for the English section, nor will it affect your composite score. In other words, if you get your dream composite score on the ACT (like a 32 or higher!) and you don’t do so hot on the essay, your overall score won’t drop. The only additional thing that happens when you take the ACT essay is that you will receive a Writing test score on a scale of 1-36 (as well as individual scores for Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions) and an image of your essay will be available to colleges that you have the ACT send that test date’s scores to. This means that worrying about how the ACT essay will “make you appear to colleges” shouldn’t be a determining factor in your decision. The primary factor that will help you choose whether or not to do the essay is whether or not any of your reach or safety schools require the essay.

Onto question two. If you are, at the moment, fairly certain that you won’t be applying to schools that require the essay, you may still be one the fence about taking it because you can’t quite dismiss the thought that in the future you may want to apply to a college that does require it. This is especially relevant if you are a junior, since you still have a good deal of time to get your dream score and figure out what colleges you want to apply to. If this is you, I would ask you to consider how much time you have to prepare for the upcoming ACT. If you are extremely busy in the morning, afternoon, and night with homework, extra-curriculas, and other work, and you only have a month or so until the ACT, you may want to spend your time focusing on studying for the other four sections. Basically, it may be a better use of your time to focus on less, that way you can really improve your test-taking habits, rather than to try to cram everything in at once. However, once you’ve taken one official ACT, if you do need to get an essay score, you will want to start carving out time to add the essay to your studying plan.

As a tutor, I believe that the ACT essay is actually fairly straightforward to prepare for, just as long as you have enough time. So, if you can commit to both writing at least 3 or 4 practice essays before test day and reviewing those tests using the ACT grading rubric so that you can steadily improve, I’d tell you to go ahead and do it.

Finally, my last question for you is how comfortable you feel writing in-class essays or timed essays in general.  If you struggle with these, the ACT Plus Writing may actually be an opportunity for you to improve this skill. It is a skill! In college, you will regularly be asked to write in-class essays on both your mid-terms and your finals, so learning how to write an essay under timed conditions while you are still in high school is a skill with long term benefits.

Happy Studying!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

Did You Get a B- on Your Last Exam? Here Are 4 New Ways to Think About Your Grades in College.

report cardGrades are, to most people, a big deal. People obsess about grades. Grades stress people out. People think grades are the end goal of school. People give up sleep to boost their grades. Although these ideas are quite common, be careful not to stifle your learning or emotional health.

In both high school and college there seems to exist a mindset that you always need to worry about getting the best grades possible. This pressure can come from all around: parents, teachers, oneself, college applications, friends, and social institutions all can contribute to this in some way. But just because this feeling of pressure is pervasive doesn’t mean that it’s good or right. Here are some ways to re-imagine how to think about grades and change your learning approach in college:

  1. Grades are just one measure of academic performance. Right now you might be thinking, “no duh.” What I mean is that it’s crucial to not get caught up in the flawed concept that “grades are the ultimate measure of a person’s self-worth.” Grades are designed to assess students on their academic progress and give them an understanding of how they are doing in class. Getting an “A” doesn’t mean you’re smart and getting a “C” doesn’t mean you’re dumb; all those letters show you is how your teacher thinks you’re doing in one specific class at one specific point in time. Academic performance is important, but make sure you don’t think the grade you get as the definitive statement on your intelligence and future prospects.
  1. Learning is an end in itself. Many students treat grades as the goal of school, and learning merely as the means of achieving that goal. This makes learning a lot less important than it should be. Much of the magnificent progress in the world has come from people who are dedicated to learning and understanding for its own sake. People like Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin didn’t do their great work so that someone could give them a grade for it; rather, they did it with the understanding that knowledge, in itself, has the power to make the world a better place.
  1. Focus on the thrill of discovery. If you focus on the thrill of discovery and develop a love for learning, school will be a lot less stressful and more enjoyable. You’ll also find yourself free from the stress that comes from worrying about what grade your teachers will assign you, and instead you will have the time and energy to do good work that you like and find meaning in. Incidentally, this works out really well for your grades; the more you enjoy the work you do, the better it will likely be. The better the work is, the higher the grade you’ll receive! It sounds paradoxical, but the less you focus on grades and the more you focus on learning, the better your grades will end up being.
  1. Set your own standards of success. Keep in mind that a grade is an individual measure. Never use a grade to compare yourself to others, whether positively or negatively. Keep your grades to yourself and use them just as one factor in motivating yourself to change your study habits, and you’ll find that you are a lot less worried about the grades you get. A big part of human anxiety comes when we judge ourselves relative to other people; when it comes to grades, it’s healthier and more beneficial to avoid that problem entirely. Although grades do act as a sort of standard, it’s vital that you don’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard of perfection, especially one that you don’t have direct control over. Pushing yourself to be your best is an important part of life, but it is even more important that how you ultimately see yourself originates from inside of you, not from some letter a teacher decides to put on your report card.

To sum up – enjoy how much you’re learning, keep happiness one of your central goals, and remember that the better you are as a self-motivated learner, the more fun you’ll have succeeding in school!

Are you starting to work on your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

Do You Know the 4 Ways to Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out?

writing essayYour personal statement is a very large aspect of your college application, and often an element of the application that takes the most time to complete. Your personal statement is your opportunity to show your strengths and qualifications to your target schools while highlighting your accomplishments and differentiating yourself from the thousands of other applications stacked on the table.

While sometimes writing a personal statement can seem overwhelming and stressful, it should also be simple and approachable – you’re just talking about yourself, right? Here are 4 quick tips to successfully write a stand-out personal statement.

  1. Follow Directions. This seems so simple and hard to overlook, but I can’t tell you how many applicants simply miss the easiest instruction. While it is important to create a narrative that accurately reflects who you are, always make sure to answer the actual question or prompt.
  1. Be True to Yourself. Your personal statement is your opportunity to showcase an aspect of yourself that hasn’t been noted or discussed anywhere else on your application. It’s probably true that your personal experiences are not the same experiences as every other applicant to your target schools, so think critically about what sets you apart and own your story. Admissions committees are looking to learn more about you and the unique qualities that you would bring to their universities. Be authentically you, it’s the best version of yourself anyway!
  1. Tailor your Approach. It’s not to your benefit to copy and paste the same personal statement into each of the applications you submit. Not only will the prompts possibly be different, but each school and the type of student they are looking for may be different, too. Take time to do your research about each school and think critically about how you can portray yourself and your story in a way that accurately reflects each campus.
  1. Tell a Story. Well-written and well-told stories are impossible to overlook and very hard to forget. Admissions committees will read hundreds of applications each season, and the best way for yours to stand out is if you tell a memorable story. When selecting which story you’d like to tell, brainstorm a list of every possible topics – these could be personal experiences, obstacles you’ve overcome, a huge accomplishment that has shaped your future goals etc. Once you’ve selected your topic, find the right angle to tell you story and make sure your angle is memorable.

There you have it! 4 quick tips to successfully writing a stand-out personal statement. Now get your pen to paper and good luck!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

Quarter Wit Quarter Wisdom: Cyclicity of Units Digits on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn our algebra book, we have discussed finding and extrapolating patterns. In this post today, we will look at the patterns we get with various units digits.

The first thing you need to understand is that when we multiply two integers together, the last digit of the result depends only on the last digits of the two integers.

For example:

24 * 12 = 288

Note here: …4 * …2 = …8

So when we are looking at the units digit of the result of an integer raised to a certain exponent, all we need to worry about is the units digit of the integer.

Let’s look at the pattern when the units digit of a number is 2.

Units digit 2:

2^1 = 2

2^2 = 4

2^3 = 8

2^4 = 16

2^5 = 32

2^6 = 64

2^7 = 128

2^8 = 256

2^9 = 512

2^10 = 1024

Note the units digits. Do you see a pattern? 2, 4, 8, 6, 2, 4, 8, 6, 2, 4 … and so on

So what will 2^11 end with? The pattern tells us that two full cycles of 2-4-8-6 will take us to 2^8, and then a new cycle starts at 2^9. 

2-4-8-6

2-4-8-6

2-4

The next digit in the pattern will be 8, which will belong to 2^11. 

In fact, any integer that ends with 2 and is raised to the power 11 will end in 8 because the last digit will depend only on the last digit of the base. 

So 652^(11) will end in 8,1896782^(11) will end in 8, and so on…

A similar pattern exists for all units digits. Let’s find out what the pattern is for the rest of the 9 digits. 

Units digit 3:

3^1 = 3

3^2 = 9

3^3 = 27

3^4 = 81

3^5 = 243

3^6 = 729

The pattern here is 3, 9, 7, 1, 3, 9, 7, 1, and so on…

Units digit 4:

4^1 = 4

4^2 = 16

4^3 = 64

4^4 = 256

The pattern here is 4, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, and so on… 

Integers ending in digits 0, 1, 5 or 6 have the same units digit (0, 1, 5 or 6 respectively), whatever the positive integer exponent. That is:

1545^23 = ……..5

1650^19 = ……..0

161^28 = ………1

Hope you get the point.

Units digit 7:

7^1 = 7

7^2 = 49

7^3 = 343

7^4 = ….1 (Just multiply the last digit of 343 i.e. 3 by another 7 and you get 21 and hence 1 as the units digit)

7^5 = ….7 (Now multiply 1 from above by 7 to get 7 as the units digit)

7^6 = ….9

The pattern here is 7, 9, 3, 1, 7, 9, 3, 1, and so on…

Units digit 8:

8^1 = 8

8^2 = 64

8^3 = …2

8^4 = …6

8^5 = …8

8^6 = …4

The pattern here is 8, 4, 2, 6, 8, 4, 2, 6, and so on…

Units digit 9: 

9^1 = 9

9^2 = 81

9^3 = 729

9^4 = …1

The pattern here is 9, 1, 9, 1, 9, 1, and so on…

Summing it all up:

1) Digits 2, 3, 7 and 8 have a cyclicity of 4; i.e. the units digit repeats itself every 4 digits.

Cyclicity of 2: 2, 4, 8, 6

Cyclicity of 3: 3, 9, 7, 1

Cyclicity of 7: 7, 9, 3, 1

Cyclicity of 8: 8, 4, 2, 6

2) Digits 4 and 9 have a cyclicity of 2; i.e. the units digit repeats itself every 2 digits.

Cyclicity of 4: 4, 6

Cyclicity of 9: 9, 1 

3) Digits 0, 1, 5 and 6 have a cyclicity of 1.

Cyclicity of 0: 0

Cyclicity of 1: 1

Cyclicity of 5: 5

Cyclicity of 6: 6

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

Is Technology Costing You Your GMAT Score?

Veritas Prep GMAT Prep Books on iPadI recently read Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. While the book isn’t about testing advice, per se, its analysis of the costs of technology is so comprehensive that the insights are applicable to virtually every aspect of our lives.

The book’s core thesis – that our smartphones and tablets are fragmenting our concentration and robbing us of a fundamental part of what it means to be human – isn’t a terribly original one. The difference between Turkle’s work and less effective screeds about the evils of technology is the scope of the research she provides in demonstrating how the overuse of our devices is eroding the quality of our education, our personal relationships, and our mental health.

What’s amazing is that these costs are, to some extent, quantifiable. Ever wonder what the impact is of having most of our conversations mediated through screens rather than through hoary old things like facial expressions? College students in the age of smartphones score 40% lower on tests measuring indicators of empathy than college students from a generation ago. In polls, respondents who had access to smartphones by the time they were adolescents reported heightened anxiety about the prospect of face-to-face conversations in general.

Okay, you say. Disturbing as that is, those findings have to do with interpersonal relationships, not education. Can’t technology be used to enhance the learning environment as well? Though it would be silly to condemn any technology as wholly corrosive, particularly in light of the fact that most schools are making a concerted effort to incorporate laptops and tablets in the classroom, Turkle makes a persuasive case that the overall costs outweigh the benefits.

In one study conducted by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, the researchers compared the retention rates of students who took notes on their laptops versus those who took notes by hand. The researchers’ assumption had always been that taking notes on a laptop would be more beneficial, as most of us can type faster than we can write longhand. Much to their surprise, the students who took notes by hand did significantly better than those who took notes on their laptops when tested on the contents of a lecture a week later.

The reason, Mueller and Oppenheimer speculate, is that because the students writing longhand couldn’t transcribe fast enough to record everything, they had to work harder to filter the information they were provided, and this additional cognitive effort allowed them to retain more. The ease of transcription – what we perceive as a benefit of technology – actually proved to be a cost. Even more disturbing, another study indicated that the mere presence of a smartphone – even if the phone is off – will cause everyone in its presence to retain less of a lecture, not just the phone’s owner.

I’ve been teaching long enough that when I first started, it was basically unheard of for a student’s attention to wander because he’d been distracted by a device. Smartphones didn’t exist yet. No one brought laptops to class. Now, if I were to take a poll, I’d be surprised if there were a single student in class who didn’t at least glance at a smartphone during the course of a lesson. One imagines that the same is true when students are studying on their own – a phone is nearby, just in case something important comes up. I’d always assumed the presence of these devices was relatively harmless, but if a phone that’s off can degrade the quality of our study sessions, just imagine the impact of a phone that continually pings and buzzes as fresh texts, emails and notifications come in.

The GMAT is a four-hour test that requires intense focus and concentration, so anything that hampers our ability to focus is a potential drag on our scores. There’s no easy solution here. I’m certainly not advocating that anyone throw away their smartphone – the fact that certain technology has costs associated with it is hardly a reason to discard that technology altogether. There are plenty of well-documented educational benefits: one can use a long train ride as an opportunity to do practice problems or watch a lecture. We can easily store data that can shed light on where we need to focus our attention in future study sessions. So the answer isn’t a draconian one in which we have to dramatically alter our lifestyles. Technology isn’t going anywhere – it’s a question of moderation.

Takeaways: No rant about the costs of technology is going to be terribly helpful without an action plan, so here’s what I suggest:

  • Put the devices away in class and take notes longhand. Whether you’re in a GMAT prep class, or an accounting class in your MBA program, this will benefit both you and your classmates.
  • If you aren’t using your device to study, turn it off, and make sure it’s out of sight when you work. The mere visual presence of a smartphone will cause you to retain less.
  • Give yourself at least 2 hours of device-free time each day. This need not be when you’re studying. It can also be when you’re out to dinner with friends or spending time with family. In addition to improving your interpersonal relationships, conversation actually makes you smarter.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles by him here.

3 Most Common Mistakes You Want to Avoid On the ACT Math Section

Veritas Prep ACTThe ACT Math has one major advantage compared to the ACT English and Reading portions: no “best answer” choices. Instead, there will be only one possible, objective, absolute correct selection to make. So if your calculator spits out a number that isn’t A, B, C, D, or E, you know you need to re-do your math.

If you’ve taken algebra and geometry classes in your high school career, you will know 99% of the content of the exam. The trick is avoiding simple errors in your calculations that also yield a multiple choice answer. The following is an example excerpted from a sample math question on the ACT website:

 

ME- Blog 1

 

This is a simple solve-for-x scenario that most ACT Math test-takers are familiar with. Note the answer choices.

 

ME- Blog 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With both sides of the equation balanced properly, the correct answer is E.

 

Say, for instance, that a student who knew how to balance equations accidentally added three instead of subtracting 3 to one side. The answer yielded, “1,” is among of the multiple choice. C.

 

ME - Blog 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this way, the multiple choice selections for the majority of the ACT Math portion rely on students making errors in basic operations. Below are a few of those common errors:

 

  1. Distributing the Negative

-2(x+2) does NOT equal -2x+4.

-2(x+2) = -2x 4.

It’s a simple rule, but always be wary of negative signs on the ACT Math.

  1. Square Roots:

The square root of 64 is 8. But it’s not the *only* square root. -8 is the other.

This detail is especially important on questions that concern quadratic functions or ask for the “number of possible solutions.”        

  1. Percent Change:

Take the given, simplified example: “A $100,000 investment grows by 50 percent in the course of 2015.=

What is it’s new value in 2016?”

Too many students will solve this question using the equation below:

100,000 x .50 = $50,000

Whenever calculating new value in a percent growth problem, the solution must be higher than the original value.

100,000 x 1.50 = $150,000   ==> This is correct.

The new value = $150,000.

The difference = $50,000.

As always, if time allows, the most valuable strategy is to check your answers before proceeding to the next problem. A quick calculation to make sure that your multiple choice selection satisfies the conditions and equations of the original question will catch most of these errors!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.